Hi guys and welcome to the second installment of my Eventing Insider Adelaide Blog. A big thank you again to the Australian International Three Day Event committee for the opportunity to share my preparation in the lead up to the event with you. I asked you guys some of the areas you had questions about on my Instagram account, so have tried to cover most of the areas you wanted to learn more about below.
The eventing season is well and truly underway with Bentley having a successful run in the CIC3* class at Spring Horse Trials. It was great to blow off a few cobwebs and we were so pleased to see the improvement from a whole winter’s worth of hard work in the arena, he felt better than ever! We next head to Goulburn, NSW in a fortnight for the big CIC3* at Lynton which will be a good next step for Bentley’s Adelaide campaign. It’s a bigger, more imposing course than Spring and a strong hit out across the undulating terrain should bring him up to peak fitness at the right time.
A month out from Adelaide seems early to have a horse at peak fitness but there’s definitely a strategy behind it with Bentley! It allows us to taper off his workload so that he goes into Adelaide feeling fit and fresh rather than fit and fatigued. Just because you have a horse fit enough aerobically to make it around the cross country under time doesn’t mean you haven’t fatigued them physically in the lead up to the point that they can’t back it up the next day for show jumping. Additionally, if they are too mentally fatigued from excessive fitness work in the immediate lead up, then they are likely to be too fractious to produce a calm and relaxed dressage test. Bentley’s biggest challenge is controlling his anxiety in the dressage. We find that, because he holds his fitness remarkably well, if we bring Bentley up to peak fitness early, and then wind down the intensity in the lead up with gentle, confidence building work in the arena at home, then he’s able to deal with pressures of such a big event in the CBD of a capital city much better.
The biggest change we’ve made so far this season has been to try him on the flat in a double bridle at Spring Horse Trials. I was totally blown away by the difference it made which was super, but having only a few days before a 3* test for him to learn what in the world it was wasn’t so super!! Building up to Adelaide, our dressage is where I’ll be trying the hardest to improve. Jumping double clear last year gave us a huge amount of confidence that we could match it at the top level but out test kept us in 4th and prevented us from challenging for the win. I’m hoping that the success we’ve had so far in changing him to a double bridle that by the time we’re going down the centre line at Adelaide it will just get us that bit closer to a podium finish.
Another area that we’ve really progressed with is our show jumping warm up. I often saw high profile coaches warming up their students before big classes over jump after jump as high and wide and ugly as the stewards would allow. Most of them did it. When you’re new to that level and almost everyone around you is doing something, it’s fair to assume that it’s right. But it took me a year at that level to realise it wasn’t right for MY horse. Sure, if you have a lazy, tired, distracted horse that needs a bit of a scare to get on the job then a big, wide spread off a tight turn and a nothing canter may give them the wake up call they need. But I was trying to give a wake up call to the careful, clean jumping yet easily rattled horse that I was fortunate enough to be sitting on. I realised that you are never going to teach them anything in a warm up! All you can do is either bring their focus and attention up the level that you have trained them to at home, or quickly ruin their confidence just minutes before your round. We now rarely jump Bentley full height in the warm up, in fact he doesn’t jump much over 1.10m. What we’ve realised we need to do is give him time over smaller jumps for his nerves to settle and his confidence to build so that when he enters the ring he’s ready to fire over the bigger fences. Not still worrying about any scares he might have had back in the warm up arena.
Following from Goulburn we’ll head to Albury CIC3* a fortnight later, which is a welcome addition after it was moved from the first half of the year to the second. He’ll be fit enough by then, so that event will all be about fine tuning our technique and working on saving valuable seconds across country – something that sounds easier than it actually is!!
In the next installment I’ll focus much more on our final preparation before a big event. How we tailor his feeding & supplements, the different therapies that we use to keep him performing at his best and some of our favourite things to take with us to a big event. An area we’ve had a large number of questions about is how to control your nerves when competing. This is something I used to have enormous problems with but I’ve now got them completely under control using a few strategies that I’ll share with you next time.
Stay tuned and if you have any areas you’d like me to cover next then feel free to shoot me a message on my social media.