Preparing For A Competition

rsz dscf4279For shows that require paper forms, prefill out forms with all information that stays the same for the season such as horses ID number, riders membership number, etc. Photocopy this form and use throughout the season. Do not sign forms before photocopying because the signature may not be valid if photocopied.

Print out numerous copies of current Coggins test and keep in a binder with horse show paper forms. Include records of competitions and dressage tests from previous competitions. The competition record makes filling out qualifications for a competition streamlined.

For Eventing, the competition record may look like this:


I keep a binder in the tow vehicle with directions to every farm, show, veterinary clinic or equine venue I've visited. Along with directions, I include travel time, tolls and any information that might be relevant. Also included in the binder are copies of Coggins of any horse I may be trailering, as well as photocopies of all horse, rider and owner membership and ID cards. I keep copies of current dressage tests, in case I want to double check that I've correctly memorized a test! I insert all the pages into plastic sleeves for easy reference. Try to get the type of plastic that doesn't transfer ink due to the fact that the binder will be in a non temperature controlled environment.

 truck direction binder

If I'm travelling alone, I will write an abbreviated version of the directions on a post it note and put that on the dashboard so I don't need to take my eyes off the road to read the directions. Even with GPS systems, it's always a good idea to have an extra set of directions just in case.

dashboard directions

I like to have photocopied checklists to use when packing for a show. I can then check off when I have completed a task and write last minute notes on what needs to be done. USEA has comprehensive checklists available in the Omnibus, but I've found it easiest to modify the lists to my particular needs so the process goes more smoothly. I've also found that if you can afford it, try to keep a separate set of show equipment in your show trunk. I have a separate set of show bridles, girths, breastplates and saddle pads. This makes preparing for a show easier because you can clean your show equipment after the show and put it away for the next competition. When preparing for the next show, you only need to clean your saddles.

Anything that can be done ahead of time I try to do as early as possible to avoid the last minute time crunch.

There are examples of packing lists and timetables in the file download section of this website.

Packing list from the USEA:

USEA checklist


Once I've gotten my ride times, I then calculate my itinerary for the day of the competition. For competitions that run in one day that are closer to my home, I will often do the XC course walk the day before. This saves some time and energy on the day of the competition. I keep a general timetable guideline in my competition binder that gives approximate times for how long it takes to do everything on the day of the event, from when I leave the farm to schooling for the phases. Here is an example of my general timetable guidelines:


1. Travel Time
2. Registration/Sign up: 15 minutes
3. Locate Dressage/Stadium rings: 10 minutes
4. Tack up Dressage: 15 minutes
5. School Dressage: 20-30 minutes for seasoned horse, 45 minutes for young horse
6. In some competitions, you need to allow time to walk from stabling or your trailer to the rings or XC course. Be sure to include that time in your planning for the day.
7. Walk XC course: 1 hour 15 minutes (may not be necessary if walked the previous day)
8. Tack up XC (including studs): 30 minutes
9. School XC: 20 minutes
10. Walk stadium: 10 minutes
11. Tack stadium: 15 minutes
12. School stadium: 20 minutes, for young horse maybe 30 minutes

This is a general guideline. Some items may not be applicable depending on how the event is run or how slowly or quickly you can accomplish the above tasks. For events that run XC directly after stadium, some of the above steps are not necessary.

Next, I take my ride times and input them into the Eventing Timetable sheet that I have photocopied for the day of competition. Using the above guideline, it allows me to plan when I need to walk the courses depending on my ride times. You can make this as detailed as you want, depending on your personal preference. Since I have a hard enough time keeping my dressage test, stadium course and XC course memorized, I like having everything spelled out so I don't need to do any extra planning that day. I keep the filled out timetable in the dressing room of the trailer for easy reference for me and anyone that may be helping me that day. This keeps it easy to stay on top of your time schedule. I have two separate Eventing Timetables, depending on if stadium runs before or after XC.


 Here is an example using actual ride times from an event close to me. 

rsz 2dscf4294 2Dressage time is 9:50

Stadium time is 11:59

Cross Country time is 12:13

I place all these times on my form and then calculate how much time I need between phases



rsz input dress time

 Since the event is local, I will walk cross country the day before.  If the event is not close to me, I would need to factor in the time needed to walk the xc course and/or stadium during the day or before dressage, depending on the situation.

I first input the dressage time and work backwards from that.  My dressage time is 9:50 and I need a 20 minute warm up, so I plan to school dressage at 9:20. I need 15 minutes to tack up (plan for more if you need to insert studs if on grass warmup or in grass rings) so I will start to tack up at 9:05.

 Since I walked the xc course the day before and I have time after dressage to walk stadium, I can plan my arrival to give me enough time to register and get tacked up. I then input how long it takes to get to the competition to determine when I need to leave home.


rsz all times calculated

After my dressage time, I walk the stadium course at 10:00

I have time to relax and let my horse relax until I need to tack up for stadium/xc at 11:10

Since xc is 15 minutes after stadium, I outfit myself and my horse for xc.  Stadium then serves as a warm up for the cross country phase.





After the competition, I clean all my show tack and put it away for the next show. I also clean saddle pads and any horse items so they are also clean and ready for use.

There are instructions on in depth tack cleaning/detailing in the step by step section of this website.