I’ve ridden dressage tests. I’ve pinned in the hunter hack. I’ve galloped through a hunter pace, over a cross country course, and behind a herd of dogs hunting a fox. I’ve prepared for equitation finals, showed in the IHSA, and even tried my hand at combined training events. I worked for an eventing trainer for a few years, too.
But I don’t want to event, and I’m not sure something strong enough exists to bribe me to ride a cross country course.
Eventing is a face paced, gusty, equestrian triathlon not everyone is cut out for. First, you begin said triathlon by riding a technically difficult pattern around a small ring. Secondly, you gallop across country terrain and leap over solid obstacles, occasionally through water. Finally, you return to the show ring to prove your endurance, and continue to jump another course of obstacles.
Originally I was going to say eventing is scary – but that sounds like I’m throwing shade. Hold your horses, because I’m not. Riders of different disciplines tend to look at one another wide-eyed, maybe even a little warily. You can call me guilty, because this is something I’ve done to eventers for quite the while. The guts, the dedication, and the knowledge base they need to have is absolutely incredible. But the amount of accidents I’ve witnessed on a cross country course makes me regard it warily.
I’m conflicted, truthfully. Seeing professionals and very talented horse-people overcome impossible feats on the cross country course will have my jaw fall slack. I’m further impressed when their horses come out of a stadium round the next day sound. They went into that phase ready, willing, and able. Their horses are essentially the “unicorns” we talk about when we’re looking for a new horse… they do it all.
I admire the knowledge and education it takes to keep eventers sound and healthy. I’m in awe of the skill riders must have to prevail after three days of grueling competition. It takes a tactful rider to score well in a dressage test alone! Half the time I can barely keep my equitation mount from scooting off in a flat class, yet eventers remain calm and collected through their dressage tests before they let loose on the cross country course. The skill necessary is undeniable.
And yet, I am still conflicted because eventing can be terrifying to watch.
C’mon, don’t deny you hold your breath when a distance comes up short and the horse three-legs a jump. Or when a horse and rider pair pick up extra speed to avoid penalties, and their excess leads to a fall or wreck. It’s nerve-wracking to consider the optimum time, and how quickly you must ride in order to meet it. There are a whole host of potential things I can think of that make me hold my breath when it comes to eventing because of safety issues… but then again, this is coming from a young woman who has a casual relationship with anxiety and fear. So, take my worry with a grain of salt.
I am happy with my sojourns out of the ring every so often. And while I’m not afraid of eventing per se, I’m afraid of what can happen if you’re not ultimately prepared during an event. While I will most likely continue to regard eventing warily, it’s important to respect another discipline of our sport.
Instead, I marvel at eventers’ guts. At their horsemanship. Their dedication and heart make me want to try cross country again, but until I can jump a solid fence without feeling faint… I’ll leave that to the equestrian triathlete pros.
But just so you know, eventers? You are pretty intimidating.