Foray in to Eventing - help!

Hello Eventing crew, I hear you are a friendly bunch… I am here soliciting some advice. I run a small hunter/jumper lesson program, however in an attempt to try something new we are attending a locally run one day unrecognized “mini event” in a few weeks. My riders will show in the Unicorn/Starter Divisions (18"/2’3"). They are good riders and lovely horses, but I don’t want us to look out of place, so I am hoping you can answer a few questions for me!

  • For dressage, can they wear their normal beige breeches/navy coats they would for the hunter ring? What about saddles, we only have our regular close contacts, I am assuming that is fine at these lower levels?
  • For dressage, fitted white hunter pad or square white pad?
  • X-Country, just beige breeches with a show shirt and vest, right? Nothing special needed?
  • For the horse, are splint boots in front and polos behind ok for the lower levels, do they need brushing boots?

Thanks for helping a girl out :slight_smile:

Welcome to eventing!! I hope you and your students have a blast. At the show I jump-judge at, there are lots of “HJ transplants” who come in for some cross training. You and your students will not be out of place.

  1. Yes, all of that is fine. They can wear whatever fits them and the horse. Check with your show’s rules for attire but, for the most part unofficial/unrecognized events are very relaxed with attire and no one is checking saddles beyond making sure they’re english.

  2. Any pad of conservative color is fine. I prefer square white but everyone has a preference. Use what works for you.

  3. XC - any color breeches, any kind of shirt, a vest, helmet, and most shows require an armband with info filled out. I have gone to recognized events on XC with purple breeches and a non-show shirt. No one cared.

  4. Any kind of water-resistant boot is fine. You can do polos if you like but I avoid them on XC for safety reasons and because once they are wet they can easily unravel and also get heavy!

Honestly… if this is lower level, you don’t even need the boots at all if you don’t usually ride in them. My horses go “naked” until I put studs in.


Thanks so much, super helpful! Good point about polo wraps in water, HA! I think we’re all set, just don’t want to look like a fish out of water. We’re looking forward to a new experience :grinning:

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Do they have medical armbands or bracelets? Most of the events around here require them. Also make sure they don’t need pinney holders for the numbers.


Everything you said is good.

I would add that the riders shirts must have sleeves and the same goes for the other phases as well. I would definitely wear a shirt with a collar for dressage ( even a polo shirt would work). Jacket is optional at most unrecognized shows, especially if it’s hot.

You do have to wear a safety vest on xc, and the medical arm band as well. You can download the medical information card on the website. Medical arm bands or medical bracelets, either one is fine.

As someone said, I wouldn’t use polos on xc as they do get heavy when wet and can come unvelcroed. Boots up front and behind if you want, or just boots up front… depends on how you normally would ride in. (Except the smb professional choice boots would also get heavy when wet.)

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Yes we have armbands! Thanks!

You will not look like a fish out of water. Very few people start their riding career eventing – most of us are transplants from another discipline. I’m an HJ AND SJ convert. :grinning:

I’m trying to think of some things for first timers, so I will update this as I think of more…

  1. SJ and XC times are usually back to back or very close at unrecognized events. Take a look at the times posted, and if your students have SJ before XC and the time is tight, it is perfectly acceptable to go to SJ in your XC gear and then head out to XC.
  2. Water is not always provided at unrecognized venues so make sure to bring your own.
  3. In eventing jump warm-ups, you can only jump the fences in warm up one way – make sure your students know this! You can be eliminated if you jump a warm-up fence backwards. The warm up fences will be flagged - white on left, red on right.
  4. You may walk the XC course while horses are on XC. Practice giving them a wide berth and don’t go near their path / track near fences. You may NOT walk SJ while an SJ competitor is in the ring.
  5. At most unrecognized there is a decent amount of time between dressage and SJ/XC - that is when you want to walk the courses. Pay attention to the SJ times and walk the course in a big group between classes.
  6. Warm up rings for eventing can be chaotic. Practice passing left to left and calling out any overtaking or sudden changes of direction.
  7. When you arrive, check in before unloading (or have a student gather everyone’s packet). At most events, competitors receive a packet that has their number, information about the event, their SJ and XC course, and order of go/class times.
  8. Any time the horse is not in the trailer, it’s a good idea for them to wear their competitor’s number. They must be wearing it to enter warm up.

Just an FYI, Armbands/wristbands are no longer required unless you have a relevant medical condition as USEA events:

Not sure if your show is following usea rules or not, but armbands may longer be required and is 1 less thing to stress over.

I would expect jackets to be optional due to it being a local (and 1 day?) show. You don’t even have to have boots on the horse should you not normally use them, your choice, but there is no rule requiring leg protection for the horse.

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Actually jackets are never required for one day lower level events.
Most places do expect you to have piney holders now - they just give you paper numbers.
Good advice already on boots BUT -no boots for dressage!

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Thanks all, everything is so appreciated. I think we’re well prepared and excited to try something new. I’ll have to report back!

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A couple of things not mentioned.

Make sure your bits are Eventing-Dressage legal.
Running martingales are legal for the jumping phases (but not dressage)
Standing martingales are NEVER allowed.

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I have one in a snaffle and one in a Pelham. Pelham yay or nay?

Pelham yay for jumping but nay for dressage

As of this year, jackets are no longer required below Preliminary for any USEA horse trial. Of course local custom on jackets may vary.

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Pay attention to the times. You’re expected to ride in order and can be eliminated if you don’t show up. None of this waiting for the trainer who is helping someone else. As a trainer, make sure you have all your student’s times for each phase so you can plan to be where needed.

Be aware of when the number in front if you is called on deck for dressage. That’s the first cue that you need to BE READY because there’s only one ride in front of you.

Even at an unrecognized event, you may be able to walk the XC course late the day before (if it’s local). As a trainer, even if your students don’t go, you might want to go check it out and get the lay of the land, and figure out how much time you need to get from Point A to Point B (trailer/dressage warm-up/jump warm up)

No coaching during the dressage test. You must remain quiet, unless you’re calling the test, and then you can only say the words on the test. You can cheer afterwards. Also, during the jumping phases, you cannot provide any information that could be misconstrued as coaching while your student is on course. Coaching is for the warm-up.

All jumps are marked with red on right/white on left and must be jumped in that direction, whether in warmup or on course. On XC, there might be several levels of jump right next to each other. Pay attention to where the flags are. If each level is flagged separately, make sure you jump ONLY YOUR LEVEL. The different levels are generally color-coded with a different background color on the number. Know what your jump colors are!
US Eventing states:

  • Beginner Novice: black # on yellow background, or as designated by the
    organizer and printed on the course map;
  • Novice: black # on white background;
  • Training: white # on black background;

Pelham is not USEA legal for dressage, but depending on the local show’s rule, you may get away with it. At the lower levels around me, they will allow it, but I would ask permission before showing up and expecting to ride in it.

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Personally, I try my best to never wear a coat since they passed the rule circa 2018/2019 that you don’t have to wear one at all at training and below, but even at an unrecognized show, you may see most people stubbornly trying to cook themselves to death in a coat. I have a navy polo I usually wear that hides horse slobber pretty well.

For all three phases, I always find it helpful to walk up to the warm up steward when I get there, tell them my number so they’re not looking for me, and ask if they are running early, on time, or late. It just helps to get that out of the way and have a feel for timing your warmup. Your event is unrecognized, so it’s unlikely, but nonetheless possible they could have a bit/tack check (to make sure you have a legal bit, whip length, spur length, etc), so you should ask about that when you check in with the steward. Pelham isn’t legal. Snaffle is legal so long as it doesn’t have gag cheeks and the mouthpiece is not twisted, a Waterford, Dr. Bristol, etc. No boots, including bell boots, for dressage. If they are early in dressage or XC, you do NOT have to ride early (even if the steward tries to bully you into it), and may elect to ride at your assigned time. SJ times are a little more vague (they don’t even have to assign you one) and I really don’t feel confident with my grasp of the rules on that to advise you one way or another. Try to keep an eye on the action in the ring- the steward is there to tell you when it’s time for you to go over, but they’re volunteers and as a result sometimes they’re not very good at their jobs. In general, thank all your volunteers- eventing isn’t a cheap sport, but they’re a huge reason we’re able to keep costs relatively lower than other disciplines.

When going outside the dressage ring before my test, I also find it helpful to slow down to a walk or halt at the judge’s box/car and tell them my number, name, and horse’s name so we’re all on the same, correct page. If there are lots of rings close by, I also ask if they have a bell or whistle (so I don’t confuse my signal with the ring next door) and because I don’t have the best hearing, I also tell them that so they will usually be kind and ring me in when I’m near them and can hear it. You have 45 seconds to get into the arena after they ring the bell.

You may not have to deal with times on XC at the levels that your students are going, but despite having a coach who was AMAZING at introducing me to eventing, I will never forget my first ever event (recognized BN), where no one had explained optimum time vs speed fault vs time limit to me and I found out the hard way what they meant. The goal is to come across the finish between the speed fault and optimum times- lower than speed fault and you get penalties; higher than optimum and you get penalties. Time limit exists really only for those having an awful day- if you get lost on course, take the world’s most scenic detour, or have a nappy horse that wastes minutes not going in the box or having a fight about turning away from home, etc, they place a limit on how long you can be out on the course before calling it a day. Some riders may have a fancy Optimum Time watch (an atrociously large wrist stop watch), but a cheap Walmart watch with stopwatch function works fine for lower levels if you will be dealing with time. It’s also recommended to not bother with time at the lower levels- just go out and have fun!- but timing yourself can also be a helpful experience for developing a feel for pace.

Another note on XC times: your students may drop down to a trot or even a walk anywhere on course EXCEPT between the last jump and the finish. That type of obvious ploy to run down the clock when you’re too close to speed fault is called “willful delay” and can get you in trouble. You’re also welcome to circle anywhere on course to waste time or get your horse back under control, so long as you haven’t obviously presented your horse to a fence.

Also hailing back to my amazing first coach, I assume your students will be on super lesson horse types, but it can nonetheless be very comforting as a rider to get a lead from the ground in/around the start box. My coach’s first upper level horse was nappy about the box, so she always made sure to provide a ground lead for the first few events to make sure everyone got off on a positive note. When I’ve had leads, the ground person usually steps away when they either mark 30 seconds or do the 10 second count down.

Good luck and I hope your riders have fun!!

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Thanks for the link. It figures, I finally get a RoadID bracelet and now I don’t need it. Not sure if I ever wore it at an event.

I can’t believe they rewrote the entire dress code and still left this; " Boots—black, brown, or any dark hue, modest piping of a different color is permitted , field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots." I brought this up to Malcolm Hook when the USEA annual meeting was in St. Louis (>10 years ago IIRC.) Dress boots are technically illegal.

Just to reiterate because I think it got lost in the long post. I’ve never been to an unrecognized event where they timed the trips, except maybe to have a time limit of 10 mins or something. Is timing at unrecognized events a thing in some areas?

None of the schooling HT around me (VA) would allow a pelham in dressage.