Monday, November 21, 2022

Levels of Dedication

Side note, this entire post is a work through of a very first world problem. At the end of the day, I am SO SO happy to be out doing the thing with a sound and happy horse. The goals other than that are just icing on the cake. 

When I said to JT back in August that my goals for this competition year were to move up to training level, qualify for AECs, and then attend AECs, I was a bit... naive. I was not particularly unaware of the difficulty of qualifying - area 3 is large and competitive, especially in the winter season. As a long time stalker of event entries to watch the live scores for local events, I knew it was going to be tough. 

Rocking Horse Winter 1 - open training, open used for the dramatic effect of "You can be out of the ribbons with a 31??" 

That same event, the winning score in the training rider division was a 28.1 with second place being a 32.3. Ocala Winter I training rider division winners were around 32, with the top three being very closely clustered together. Rocking Horse Winter II first through third were all under 30.5. So basically we need a stellar dressage test and no more than 1 rail (if that, depending on the group) and then the obvious clear cross country trip (or clear jumping with minimal time) to think about being in first or second to get our qualifying score for AECs. But honestly, if we're going to go to AECs, not just to go, but to plan on being competitive, those are fair qualifications. 

First though, getting out there and completing a training level event. That's where my naivete shows. Welcome to the blog of an amateur eventer LOL. I alluded to it in this post regarding how difficult training level cross country is, but that's just the beginning. Ben is a thoroughbred, so the challenges of fitness are less than in a lot of WB types, but they are still present. The competence aspect is more pressing though. I suspect that by the time we are competent at each phase, the thoroughbred is going to be fit enough. We do roughly one day a week with 20 min trot followed by 3 x 3 min canter sets with 2 minutes in between each canter set. Some forward and back in the canter, not just galumphing along. And another flat day has 20 minutes of long/low trot (if we're sane enough to long and low) added to the end of it. 

He is so delighted by his stall guard

That competence though... moving up to a new level... requires 6 rides most weeks. It has become clear to me this fall that I have been sitting at a 4-5 rides a week level for... well... forever. Adding in that extra 1-2 rides a week does put a bit of pressure on my schedule. I have an amazing amount of time off with my job, but the days I do work I have 8-12 hour shifts. Riding before an 8 hour shift is totally doable. Riding before a 12 hour shift? Mehhhhhh gets a little wearing by the third day because that means sleep is minimized in order to work and fit in riding. The obvious solution here is keeping Ben at JT's and having her do a training ride each week. A training ride would be good for him and mean just 5 days of riding instead of 6. But when he is at her barn, it is a 3-4 hour production to go ride rather than a 2-3 hour production at the GY's because of the extra driving time to JT's. The other benefit of him being at JT's though is that I don't have to haul to a lesson each week, which makes one of the rides while boarding with the GY's a 5-6 hour day instead of 2-3. Tough world I'm living in deciding between two places where I love the people and my horse gets incredible care. 

So there's the logistics of riding 6 days a week. No perfect solution unfortunately unless I suddenly become independently wealthy. I have considered going to only relief work and making my own schedule, but... benefits and all... not quite a jump that I am ready to make at this time. This fall has been a split of time at JT's and the GY's, we'll see how the rest of the winter pans out. 

Our ideal schedule for theoretical competence and fitness: 
  • Trot/canter sets
  • Dressage day
  • 1 hr+ walk hack
  • Jump lesson 
  • Light dressage + 20 minutes trot 
  • Possible cross country schooling? Or second light jump day? Or another dressage day
  • Off 
Most recent walk hack, always a little dicey taking out my phone to take a picture on a cold windy day, but we survived

Now that I have put a goal out there, I am committed to the going for it for 2023. But beyond that? I'm not sure that I am a person who wants to be regularly competing at training level (and certainly not above). I do suspect that once we are established at training level, it will get a little easier. A little bit less stress around going in and jumping a meter course. A bit less need to get the jump lesson weekly, once every 1.5 weeks might suffice. We might be able to slip by with XC schooling once a month instead of once every 2-3 weeks. But we might not... and I think I could be content bopping around novice for forever. 


  1. dude i feel this struggle completely. my issues with moving up to training were (obvi) quite a bit different, but at the end of the day for charlie, who has always been a bit on the fragile side, it ended up being a question of whether he (and his feet) could physically hold up to all that conditioning work AND the repetitions i needed for, to put it as nicely as you do, "competence."

    for your particular case, tho, i wonder if there's a third option. at least in my area we have a TON of pretty solid youth riders who are always happy for extra saddle time. i wonder if there's some kid or YR out there that you'd trust to help get you to that 6 days without massively shifting your current situation?

    1. That's a really interesting thought. I don't know any of said riders, but I could contact an instructor I rode with a few years ago as well as the good ole FB.