Practice jumper rounds at horse trials

Seeing as it’s becoming more and more common for horse trials to offer these, I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion and see what people’s opinions on them are.

I can totally understand why organizers would want to offer them. It’s a way to make a little extra income for the horse trials, without requiring additional equipment or a significant amount of additional time or manpower.

However, it seems to me that eventing (at least beyond the very introductory level) always meant having to jump a course that your horse hasn’t looked at before, or a least one that he didn’t practice over the previous day, in a ring that he wasn’t just schooled in. I can totally get behind allowing practice rounds for schooling horse trials and pre-BN levels where you have a ton of green horses and beginner riders and the most important thing is just to have a good experience for all. But what about recognized horse trials? It seems a little strange to me to allow competitors to sign up for a practice round to give yourself an advantage in recognized competition.

I realize in the jumper world, ‘warm up’ classes are a thing and probably none of the horses are jumping obstacles that are ‘new’ to them in their big class, but IMO eventing is a different sport and works better without practice rounds.


Yeah I have to agree - I’m starting to see them and being a competitive person I feel like I’m at a disadvantage if I don’t get that extra round in. So to add to the stress of taking time off work to compete, and the cost of it all, it now looks like for some venues I need to add ANOTHER day off and more cost…

Why don’t organizers run those extra rounds at the END of the event (or the end of a division)? If a horse had a crummy go in stadium it could get a 2nd chance later in the same day, or the next day. Probably not the revenue generator they envisioned though…


While I would be fine with offering schooling rounds AFTER the division has concluded, I would not support practice rounds at or the day before the show. It completely defeats the spirit of equal competition where the first time the horse sees the course is the actual event. If people want to participate in eventing, they need to follow all the rules. What next? Let trainers school the horses over the fences and hand it off to the competitor to jump the round?


Interesting-- I don’t think I have ever seen this at a recognized event around here. (I’ve seen the extra rounds offered but never seen anyone who was actually competing take part.) Even at local schooling HTs and CTs you’re always required to do your competition round first.


If I ran the world, I would categorize this as outside assistance and ban the practice. Feels like it’s on the same slippery slope as having your trainer warm up your horse or give it a little extra schooling in between phases.

The idea behind eventing, IMHO, is that every horse and rider team is meeting on an equal playing field, answering questions that only one half of each partnership has previewed. Part of the test is the level of trust and communication between the two-legged athlete and their four-legged one.


I have never seen a practice round offered BEFORE your judged round. Your judged round is always first, your practice round is after. Have any of you ever seen the practice round coming before the JUDGED round? I never have, I think you might be worried about nothing. No worries about ruining eventing!


In Arizona I remember schooling rounds on Friday before the event on the weekend. I don’t think it was the same course but I could be wrong. It was the same arena and jumps.

I regularly see notices that the cross country course is closed before an event. Is that a rule for a certain number of days, or is that just the venue wanting to preserve the footing, etc.?

There is also “arena familiarization” at the upper levels right? You get to go in and ride in the dressage arena beforehand. So how is that different?

You get arena familiarization for dressage at the really big events, but you don’t get to school in the showjumping arena with the jumps in place that I know of. Certainly not over the jumps.

I realize that at most events there will likely have been horses that have been in the competition arena over the same fences at some point in the past, because events definitely don’t get an entirely new set of jumps each time they run. But I think there’s a difference between “horse jumped this same spooky Liverpool fence once 2 months ago in a different location in the arena” and “horse schooled over this exact fence twice yesterday”.

I’m pretty sure some places are offering them before. I’d be totally fine with offering them after the competition is over if they wanted to!

Which recognized events then let you do a practice SJ round the day of the show or even the day before?

The closest I can think is some local shows offer XC schooling the day before, or might run a “derby” the day before a schooling HT. I feel like this is a non issue unless you know which recognized events are actively doing this.

I know at the Carolina Horse Park-they offer a schooling day before the War Horse Series which are schooling horse trial series. This includes riding in the dressage arena (no judge) XC course and Show jumping ring not judged and they can do extra rounds but they have to sign up for them.

In Ontario there are two events that offer schooling of the exact course the night before.

Ottawa/Wesley Clover Parks and Stevens Creek Horse Trials. I think Oakhurst might have at one point also but not 100% sure.

It’s an advantage to those who stable over night, which most don’t because we have primarily one day events.

They are allowing arena familiarization in the stadium jumping arena (jumping included) at The Fork. Reference Tamie Smith’s IG post from yesterday:

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Same fences before the Competition: do they have attendant Fence Judges to keep an eye on safety? Several recent deaths in Eventing have been during schooling not during the event.

I have seen them offered before - usually on the Thursday or Friday, with stadium on Saturday or Sunday.
Same jumps, but different course.

For showjumping? Or just dressage? The picture is of dressage.

Historically it’s been allowed for dressage, but not showjumping. If they’re in the same ring, I don’t think there is ever “another” arena familiarization after the jumps are set at the big events.

If you scroll/slide through the images you will see the show jumping images. Attaching screenshot of one of the SJ photos.

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Ah, gotcha. I clicked on it but only saw the first one which was dressage.

I realize Eventing is a much different sport now than it was 20 years ago, but do we really need to do away with everything that makes it a unique challenge and different from the hunter/jumper world?

I always liked how in Eventing, you used to have to do your homework “at home” and show up to event ready to compete. Now we’re getting into all the endless “prep” of the h/j world, and putting even more extra jumps on our horses’ legs in the process.


At one CA venue their site lists the following for their upcoming recognized event:

Thursday Schooling Rounds: We will remain closed to schooling per the CDFA recommendation of restricting movement of horses. We will be adding schooling rounds to Thursday, April 14th for Dressage @ $30, Show Jumping (BN,N,T) @ $30 and Cross-Country (7-10 Jump Course BN and N) @ $60.”

This is to compensate for EHV-1 lockdowns apparently.

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I so agree. The event facilities in Ontario offer schooling now which is great and I do use them also, but I find people who live close to the events ride the courses over and over all the time and when you’re trailering in from 3 hrs away you’re against everyone who rides the courses every single week all summer. It becomes a dressage and SJ competition.