Planning and organization are critical for eventers competing at horse trials. Sarah Davis finds herself having to map out a strategy to make sure things go as seamless as possible.
But what does it take to coordinate a schedule to make things go smoothly?
The horseman is based at Lara Anderson’s and Daniel Brown’s Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, but if she’s riding at Pine Top Farm Equestrian Center in Thomson, Ga., she has to take into account a number of variables. The athlete will usually find out when her ride times are the Wednesday of the event, and will then plot her course for the rest of the week, by writing up a schedule based on her ride times.
“If I have an 8 a.m. ride time, I’ll know how long it takes to drive there, and how long it’s going to take to get the horses on the trailer in the morning,” said Davis. “The most stressful thing for me when I’m showing is getting to my ride on time. If I have 40 minutes for a horse to warm up, it’s being able to get there early enough to have the 40 minutes to warm up.”
Davis’ schedule for the horse trials is precisely detailed, and the rider knows when she has to start tacking up her horses, when she’ll have to get on each horse, what time she has to show her horse, and when the next horse has to be ready. If Davis has multiple rides, the challenge of keeping things running smoothly becomes greater. The importance of being organized and having a plan in place is critical to precluding what could possibly become a logistical nightmare.
The number of grooms assisting Davis at a horse trials depends on the amount of rides she has. Each person will have a schedule, she said. If Davis will be competing more than two horses, she’ll usually have someone on the ground at the event who will be able to handle a number of tasks.
“You have yourself an extra pair of hands,” said Davis. “It helps immensely.”
The challenges can be many when multiple rides are involved as one can’t be ubiquitous. The rider must stay focused, concentrate and memorize the stadium jumping and cross country courses and the dressage tests, giving each horse the best ride possible, riding their best, not committing any technical errors and being on time for each ride, are among the variables in an often complex equation. The challenge can become even greater if the rider has multiple horses going in the same division or at the same level, said Davis. If there are enough people to help on the ground, the rider can get right back on another horse, but if the ride times are close together, it becomes more demanding in determining how to have enough time in between rides, are there enough people to get the next horse ready, and to have it at the ring, so the rider doesn’t have to go back to the barn.
“Competing is an immense amount of work, but it’s very rewarding,” she said.
Davis has to allot for enough time to walk all of the cross country courses, the stadium jumping courses, memorize the dressage tests, and to be able to sleep at night, so she’ll be able ride the next day.
“It becomes more difficult if I’m riding a horse at every level because you have to learn all the different tests,” said Davis. “The way it usually goes, is that when I’m supposed to be doing the dressage test on my novice level horse, I’ll be doing stadium jumping on my preliminary horse, and then it becomes a scheduling nightmare because I can’t be in two places at one time. It’s a balancing issue for sure.”