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Making Eventing Work For You

Anyone who chooses to compete in the sport of eventing inevitably has to work hard, and some enthusiasts have to go above and beyond to make the sport work for them. We find out from three riders how they manage their hectic schedules.

“I enjoy the camaraderie you get with this sport”

Name: Caroline Mosley
Age: Over 40!
Location: Scottish Borders
Profession: Lecturer in Veterinary Clinical Skills at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Caroline’s day starts with her 5:30am ‘labralarm clock’ when her two Labradors wake her up for breakfast.

“Luckily we have the horses at home so I can walk to the stables and be in the saddle on one of the horses by 6:30am,” she tells me. It’s then a dash back inside to get ready and be at work for 8:30am ahead of a full day of lecturing, before hot-footing it back home and a quick exercise of the second horse before dinner.

Caroline has two horses currently. Dwina de Cavron is a 17 year old mare with whom Caroline previously competed up to Advanced level: “I put on my brave pants and did it once, but I’d never do it again. Balancing the time needed for an Advanced event horse and full-time work is hard!” She also has her sister’s five year old homebred gelding SLF Ambush, who she plans to “do some Arena Eventing with this winter and come out ready and raring for BE90 next year.”

Caroline has what some might possibly consider an unconventional method of planning her horses’ training schedules: “I find that the only way it works for me is if I really focus on one of the horses at a time and put a lot of effort into lessons and training, while keeping the other ticking over with hacking or a quick schooling session, and then I swap them over,” Caroline explains. This means a strict plan to ensure peak fitness for competitions, which she usually either attends on her own or with a friend. “My friend calls it our stately home tour of the UK,” Caroline laughs.

But why does she do it? “I competed heavily in show jumping when I was younger and moved to eventing just over a decade ago,” she explains. “I enjoy the camaraderie you get with this sport – everyone you meet is super friendly, even though you’re all technically rivals and competing against one another.”

“I always manage to make it work somehow!”

Name: Tatty Wooldridge
Age: 23
Location: Surrey
Profession: Customer Service Co-ordinator and part-time student

On a typical day Tatty wakes at 6am and rides her horse Oreo – a 16 year old Irish Sports Horse gelding with whom she is aiming for the Science Supplements Cup – before work.

“I am a student, so if I have a lesson in the morning, my mornings start even earlier, but luckily I live on the polo yard where my horses are stabled, so that certainly helps,” Tatty tells me. “It also helps to have such a dedicated trainer, Sarah, who’s willing to get up at the crack of dawn to train us even though she has two young children!”

Then it’s a rush to “look smart enough for a day in the office, before returning back to the yard again to finish the horses off.” Tatty also owns an ex-show jumper that she still hacks, but her boyfriend will occasionally join her for a ride: “He likes being around the horses so he puts up with it well!”

As well as full-time work in the family business – “Dad has made me work from the bottom up to earn my position” – Tatty also has to fit in studying an Open University degree in Environmental Science around exercising the horses, but she has found a training schedule that works for her.

“Usually I have to fit in cross country lessons at the weekend as they take up more time, and as the nights get darker I have to factor in schooling during daylight hours because there aren’t any floodlights in the arena, but I always manage to make it work somehow!”

“I have a very supportive husband”

Name: Justine Parker
Age: 34
Location: Near Cheltenham
Profession: National Director of Sport at British Showjumping

Justine (pictured) juggles her busy schedule with competing her top horse, 10 year old gelding Roanwood Cruising Quin, at three star level and nine year old mare Gracia Noordenhoek at Novice level. Gracia started her eventing career later in life after having a foal.

A standard day in the life of Justine involves getting up before 6am: “I’m very efficient in the morning – it’s like a military art!” she laughs. On a typical morning Justine rushes to her rented stables and rides both horses before getting changed in the car and heading off on a 90-minute drive to be in her office by 8am.

“In order to make it work, you have to be organised. I have a strict plan for my two horses and you have to utilise your evenings,” she tells me. “Timed canter work is actually quicker than schooling and as I don’t have an arena – I have to book one that is a 15-minute hack away – I leave that until the weekends.”

Speaking of weekends, Justine has an itinerary for those, too: “I work for Lucy Jackson, the New Zealand international rider, in order to earn a little more towards the entry fee pot and she gives me some additional training in return, which is invaluable.”

Justine has to compromise by using a lot of her annual leave in order to compete.

“Luckily I have a very supportive husband! But I just love this sport. It’s what I get up for and, when things are tough, it’s what keeps me going. You might not always bring home the rosettes, but on those days where you do well, knowing that you’ve held your own with your inexpensive horses that you’ve produced yourself against some of the best riders in the country, there’s just no better feeling.”

Top tips for eventing on a budget

Amateur event rider Sarah-Jane Brown, founder of the Shoestring Eventing blog, shares her advice for eventing with limited resources:

  • Accept eventing is expensive and your horse is likely to have a better wardrobe than you can afford for work or social outings!
  • My grandmother always used to say: “Only the rich can afford to buy cheap!” Don’t make false economies such as cheap tack, poor farriers or not looking after the transport as this may prove more costly in the long run. Go for the best you can afford. Value is great, but skimping on the important things should be avoided where possible.
  • While it won’t suit everyone, I rent a couple of stables and do all the care myself starting early before work and generally fitting them in around my work day. A good headtorch is essential in winter! 
  • Share lessons and travel where possible with like-minded people as it can be more economical, more fun and you learn from watching each other.
  • Homemade fly sprays and electrolytes can save a lot of money using simple raw ingredients.
  • Repair and mend where possible rather than buy new – binder twine, duct tape and WD40 can fix most things! I also have an excellent saddlery repair shop and cobbler locally that have kept various tack, as well as my boots, going far longer than their ordinary life span. 
  • Barter where possible. I occasionally help friends look after their horses when they are away and hence have the favour returned if I am just taking one horse away for a few days. 
  • Frozen ice cube bags and jay clothes a great way of cooling legs and very economical. They can keep frozen for 48 hours if travelling like me. Pack in a cool box with frozen water bottles that can also be a cooling drink for the rider when finished.
  • Retain a set of shoes each season with stud holes to take eventing in case you lose one. Quicker, easier and cheaper to put one on.
  • I have no school to ride in and have learnt to appreciate how much I can teach out hacking. Embrace a lack of facilities. My horses go on all grounds as they are used to working in a field and I don’t pay out for expensive school hire too often. 

See more from Sarah-Jane at:
Facebook: @shoestringeventing
Instagram: @ shoestring_eventing
Twitter: @Shoestringevent
YouTube: Sarah-Jane Brown

First published in Spet/Oct 2020 issue of British Eventing Life, original words by Amy Powell