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We Are Flying Solo

March 3, 2010

Challenges Are Challenging

One of the things I did once I decided to event Solo was to read. Everything. I know, shocking, right? Nerd girl who reads everything read about her newly proclaimed hobby?! Any article I could google, follow a link to, or find in a magazine, I voraciously devoured. I read about conditioning, riding XC obstacles, about dressage for the eventer, about trainers, tack, rules, and training.

A primary question you are faced with when entering a discipline is (a) what level should I be at and (b) how do I know when to move up a level? In eventing today, this has become a particularly prickly question as we all want to make sure that when we DO move up, both we and our horses are truly ready to face the new challenges safely.

Oh, don't worry, there are even articles about this!

In all horsey things, even though I have spent decades on the back of horses, I have always competed at the lowest levels. Training and First Level dressage, 2'6" and lower hunters. So logically, I entered the Beginner Novice level in eventing (since I was pretty comfortable jumping a 2'6" vertical, I thought Maiden was a bit too small for me and Solo snorted disdainfully in agreement, citing that 8" logs weren't really worth his effort, TYVM.).

According to the experts, it's time to move up when, to put it most simply, your current level bores you. Of course, it's not actually that simple, because there are plenty of people who THINK they are bored at their level but they really still have a lot to learn. Another trap is people who think they have to be perfect at a level before moving up. You don't have to win a blue ribbon every trip out -- really, you don't have to win a blue ribbon ever, you just need to be able to safely, confidently, and competently navigate your level and finish feeling just as confident as when you started.

Of course, this is not to say that I have learned everything, but this was my thought process: the dressage test was easy. No, we did not get perfect, or even awesome scores as there are certainly things we needed to work on, but it was basically W/T/C with a few circles.

By last winter, I found the XC courses were very easy for both Solo and I, no obstacles were problematic, everything always went smoothly and I was often disappointed that the obstacles, to me, were too small and things like banks (I LOVE BANKS!) were often omitted.

Once we figured out how to go forward, the stadium courses were very simple -- all we had to do was not forget where we were going and I had no concerns, as Solo cleared everything by a mile.

Which all boiled down to -- I felt everything was very easy and we weren't learning anything new, except in the dressage. But the Novice dressage test is really not any different than the Beginner Novice test, there is just more bending. So if I was going to be annoyed by dressage anyway, why not be annoyed while learning from new and more exciting jump courses? The things we need to work on in the dressage arena are the same issues EVERYONE struggles with, more balance, more straightness, better connection. Nothing that's going to be solved by staying at BN forever!

It's a bit hard for me to elucidate it all because it really was a bit like a revelation to me one day as we walked a course with a Novice level friend and I thought, gee, I sure wish I was riding HER course because mine is kinda boring. Of course now, having committed to moving up, all of a sudden, the jump courses are a huge challenge all over again and I am daily tempted to back down to the "sure thing" that I already know we can do at BN. But then what would be the point if we never challenge ourselves to grow?

Are there others of you who have struggled with and made this choice? Do you think there are better ways for riders to answer the question? When did you know it was time to take that big step into the relative unknown of a new level in your riding?


  1. Go gettum girl! Thats so exciting.

  2. I am a fellow nerd girl, and as a newly proclaimed "I wanna event!" person, I am reading EVERYTHING as well, (yet another reason to read your blog by the way, it is nice to read something not written assuming you are competing successfully at training level or above, esp. considering I can't even jump yet, at all (stupid nerves, and lack of footing/dry ground)) So, basically, I agree wholeheartedly with your basis of when to move up. As long as you have the basics, do what makes you happy, I will never compete for ribbons, if/when I do compete, it will be for fun, and to see how my horse and I are doing! If we get bored/unchallenged, then it is time to see what happens to be over that bigger hill over yonder!

  3. Cool, Alana! Yes, for most of us, eventing is sooo not about ribbons, it's about the ride. Hahaha, no training level here yet, it will take a while before we are ready for that whole mess!

  4. I am making the hard decision to move up to prelim, problem is I also have to contend with NQR's which is preventing me from moving up, but is also questioning the ability of my horse to move up. NQR's come into play at training level if you ever want to move up and you have to have a certain number to keep moving up levels. Meaning you have to have clean XC course with a max of 32 time penalties, as well as other restrictions on dressage and stadium. Our issue is XC spectators, if there are alot on course Yankee will refuse a jump. Its frustrating cuz we can for sure master the technical and height of a preliim course, but from prelim on there will be spectators. But I found that like you said, whenver you are bored with your current level, move! Yankee only did one BN before we moved up cuz we both got bored! i dont know if this helped, i felt like I was mostly rambling, but good luck!

  5. That is really interesting, chase. I had not heard of a horse with performance anxiety. He just doesn't like to be watched, eh? Be careful out there, prelim is where I really start worrying about people, it seems to be where the nasty accidents start kicking in!

  6. I read your post today and was so happy I did. I am going thru the same thought process in my own head. Is it time to make the move to N or should I stay at BN. . reading and reading and reading and trying to plan the season, and yet the old saying "the best laid plans...fall apart" lol.
    I love to read your posts and hope you have a great season. What area are you in?

  7. Kimberly, I am on the southern end of Area II, in NC. I hear you about plans! We first took a shot at eventing back in 2007 and it took us 3 years to finally make this move, so all we know is the slow, oft-derailed way, LOL!