I use the following approach to make a plan for any horse:
1. Think about the overall goal(s) for a horse for the season
In settling upon a goal for a horse for the coming season I will reflect on how I think the horse went in the previous season, what I thought its strengths were, where does it still need to develop; for example, was it confident at the end of the season, what kind of experience does it need to gain this season – does it need to gain mileage and see more fences without pressure or is it ready to go up a level, or does it need a few confidence building runs etc
I also think about what the owners of the horse would like to do and if they have any particular preferences – for example, to aim for a specific three day event
I also often think about goals for the season in two halves – what would I like to achieve for the first half of the season (March – June) vs the second half of the season (July onwards).
2. I then think about what types of event will best suit the horse
Each horse is an individual and as a consequence will often be suited to a slightly different range of events. For me I tend to focus on which events I think will best suit each horse and whether I think a horse needs an easier, or educational, run at a certain point in its schedule. I also consider when it last ran vs when it will next run, and what the plan (b) is if it gets balloted or the event is cancelled. I look at the events if will do over a two to three month period rather than events in isolation as often its one day event runs are part of its prepation for a three day event/championship goal.
3. I then think ‘is the plan doable, does it make the best use of my time and give the horses the best chance of performing well’ when looked at overall
For me it’s important to look at the optimal plan for each horse and then to look at the plans in combination to make sure they are doable – for example it doesn’t make sense for me to ride 5 horses at one event and only 1 at another, unless there is a good/specific reason. I try to limit myself to riding no more than 3 horses ideally, but sometimes 4 each day at an event as I find this is optimal to be able to focus on each horse and spend time with the owners/supporters of the horses that are competing. However sometimes it doesn’t work out this way as the schedule is not always ideal. Like buses, the advanced runs all seem to come at once – it would be better for them to be more spread out. Then, in September/October there are far less intermediate runs and hardly any advanced in the UK. So as with most things in life compromise and tradeoffs sometimes have to be made.
Additional Tips to Consider
In addition to the pointers above I would encourage you to consider the following in choosing which events to aim for:
♦ what type of going does my horse prefer
♦ what type of course does my horse go best on, some tracks are more twisty than others, some have more hills and undulations, some have more testing ground to ride over
♦ is the track ‘up to height’ for its level, does it have alternatives at the more difficult fences, do I think the horse/I am ready for the track
♦ does the horse need an educational run, or do I/the horse need an easier fun run,
is the event close to home
♦ is the event likely to ballot, am I realistically likely to get in, what’s the plan B if I don’t get in
♦ is the track good for my supporters to be able to view the cross country
♦ have I had fun at the event before, was it well laid out, well organised, did I enjoy myself!