Moving Up A Level

Top tips for a successful move-up to the next level
1/ Build on the all important ‘confidence levels’ by not over facing your horse.
2/ Don’t overlook anything in training. A small problem can turn into a big one if not corrected. 
3/ Make sure that you are established at the next level within your training before moving up.

There were 26 international events on the British calendar in 2010 and with 8 of them being 1* and 2* three day events there is a good choice for the amateur rider. The pinnacle of most riders eventing career is the three day event and whether it is a 1* or Badminton the preparation starts months before.

Requirements for a CCI1* and 2*
The first point to consider is if you and the horse have had enough experience and have completed the requirements laid out by the FEI. In 2010 the minimum requirement for a CCI 1* changed to include either an intermediate or CIC 1* (clear xc) added to the 4 novices or alternatively 6 novices (clear xc and no more than 16 sj ) Having personal goals ie, completing 3 novice with dressage no lower than 66%, with no more than 1 sj down and jumping a clear xc with no more than 8 time penalties would be a good benchmark before entering a CCI 1*.

Before your first CCI 2* it would be ideal to complete 3/4 extra intermediates over and above what is ‘minimum requirement’ as this would advance the experience and fitness of the partnership.

Fitness of the horse
The level of fitness required for a three day event is very different to that of a one day. The average time xc for a novice one day is 5mins and an intermediate 5 to 6mins whereas a CCI1* can be up to 9mins and a CCI 2* up to 10mins at maximum. To gain this extra fitness you will need to step up your fitness work approx 5 weeks before the three day event. Before you start increasing the fast work ensure your horse is at his best of health, not dehydrated with well balanced feet and some people will also have the bloods checked.

Ideally, alternating short sprints on a well maintained gallop with longer, slower canters on some good grassland is a very effective way of fittening for the short format although it will very much depend on the individual horse. This is an example of the last couple of fitness sessions before the event;

1*    sprint session……….. 3 sprints up a 5 furlong gallop (with a hill)
long, slow session……3x6min canters at ½ speed  (480mpm)
2*   sprint session…………4 sprints up a 5 furlong gallop
long, slow session……3x7min canters at ½ speed (500mpm)

Don’t forget some golden fittening rules
1/ Always do your fast work on the best ground available but try to vary the surfaces
2/ Hill work will be more effective at improving stamina and aerobic fitness
3/ Canter work every 4th day if possible
4/ Try to go with someone experienced at a higher level to get a feel for the speed
5/ Build up with feel and try to recognise a pattern of recovery
6/ Always try to work in a good balance

Rider fitness
It is important for the rider to be aerobically fit enough to cope with 10mins of xc riding. Exercises such as power walking, swimming or running (on grass) are excellent ways of raising the heart rate. Developing better core stability has been proven to aid riding balance, which is essential for safety when the horse is getting tired towards the end of the track. Exercises on a gym ball (whilst watching TV at night), weekly pilates classes or working on ½ rounds and wobble boards will all help to develop better core stability.

Winter training
Winter is a great time for reflection and new plans but it tends to go so quickly.
It is important to set out a programme of training so nothing is overlooked. Some trainers will go through a performance profile with their pupils which will highlight strengths and weaknesses which helps formulate a plan.

Things to consider in your winter training programme may include;

Within your flatwork, try to improve balance and softness throughout all of the work. Aim to develop the medium paces, transitions, counter canter, rein back, leg-yield and balance on smaller circles.
Work with your trainer on any areas of weakness in your sj and aim to develop and more established rhythm and balance which will in turn produce a more careful jump. Cantering over poles on the ground on straight and curving lines is an excellent way of developing a better stride pattern. Aim to get to some BSJA shows after Christmas as this will sharpen your reactions and ring craft. You need to be competing at Newcomers/ 1.15m opens level. (BSJA run an eventing membership for the winter months)

At this level you are aiming for more self-carriage and suppleness so focus on improving transitions within the pace, shoulder-in, travers, simple changes, counter canter and pirouette work. British Dressage offers an eventing membership at £30 which is an ideal opportunity to improve test riding skills. (For 2* level aim towards Medium level BD).
Work to improve your ‘gear changes’ within your jumping work, keeping straightness, rhythm and balance the main focus. Jumping some Foxhunter tracks would be an ideal aim after Christmas.

Whilst the ground is not suitable it is an ideal time to simulate some of the more difficult lines that you will come across in competition, such as serpentine lines, skinnies on the angle, etc. Try to practice on as large an area as possible as this will allow you to practice working through the different gears.

There are a lot of training opportunities through the winter months. You may be lucky enough to be part of the Pony, Junior, Young Rider or even the regional foundation squad, but if not, the Coaching Development Teams offer XC Performance and Safety Workshops and REACT training all with constructive help and advice. The pre-season JAS competitions are ideal to sharpen your reactions at all levels with excellent prize vouchers at the final.

Last 6 weeks before a three day
Because there is a lot of planning to do leading up to a three day it is best to use a calendar or a diary. This way you can record fast work, medication, competition programmes, training, etc.

Things to consider in the last 6 weeks;
1/ Extra fitness. Consider the time involved
2/ Perfecting the dressage test ( video analysis?)
3/ Practice the trot up. A poor trot up performance can make a horse look unlevel when he is a little tired.
4/ Passport. FEI passports cost £208 and can take up to 3 weeks to get completed.
5/ Vaccination. Under FEI rules horses are required to have a booster at 6 monthly intervals.
6/ Make sure all your feed and supplements conform with Jockey Club rules.
7/ Try to prevent cross-contamination in your yard . Adopt personalised feed buckets and cleanliness in the feed room.
8/ If you have asthma or any condition requiring medication that is prohibited download a Therapeutic Use Exemption Certificate (TUE) at least 4 weeks before you compete.
9/ Make sure you have registered horse and rider with the FEI.
10/ Check different rules for FEI competitions, eg spurs at 2* for dressage
11/ Make sure you are aware which products and drugs you can legally use on your horse whilst competing
12/ Organise your competition programme to cater for fitness runs, educating runs and confidence runs.

At all the British CCI1* and 2* events there will always be a member of the CDT available for the duration of the event to offer help and advice on warming up, the trot up, post xc care and there will also be at least two organised walks around each course  totally free of charge for the competitors.

Moving up to the next level

One of the most important aspects when moving up to the next level is maintaining confidence, which can often be very fragile. BE offers a very good progressive ladder of competitions, however it is important to know when to plateau at a level and establish confidence before moving on.
When you are considering going up a level, do your homework on the events as some will be ideal for first timers and others would be for the more experienced combinations. Try to plan events in your programme that allow you to drop down a level from time to time so your horse is not always being tested. It will often take 3 or 4 events before you start achieving the speed naturally at the next level, never try chasing the time too early on. Try to watch as many professional riders as possible to gain a feel of the speed required for different fences.

Top tips for a successful move-up to the next level
1/ Build on the all important ‘confidence levels’ by not over facing your horse.
2/ Don’t overlook anything in training. A small problem can turn into a big one if not corrected.
3/ Make sure that you are established at the next level within your training before moving up.
4/ If something doesn’t go to plan, analyse your mistake and go right back to the basics to rebuild.
5/ Know what to expect by familiarising at that level before you compete.
6/ Try to be realistic in your goals, which should promote enjoyment in your training.