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As the Eventing Season is now upon us, we asked locally based International Event Rider Ibby Macpherson to share her tips with us on how best to prepare your horse for the eventing season, and not forgetting some tips to prepare you!

With Ibby Macpherson Eventing

Ibby Macpherson is an International Event Rider, based near Crick in Northamptonshire where she runs an Equine Hydrotherapy Spa and Event Yard. Ibby has previously been a stable jockey for William Fox Pitt and has represented Britain at International level. Ibby told NHT Magazine “Preparation is key to any successful event season” and she kindly shares with us below her preparation tips.

Ridden Work

Weeks 1 to 3

I think it is really important that fitness work is built up gradually, starting with hacking. I usually start my horses with 30 minutes ridden walk providing they are not coming back from injury. I use a variety of terrain and build up the steepness of hill work gradually.

Week 3

After about 3 weeks in walk we will start trotting, making sure the horse is in an outline and in balance, again building this up gradually during a 1 ½ hour hack.

Week 4

At this stage I introduce lunging in trot for 20 mins - 5 mins each rein X 2, starting off with 2 minutes trot and then 1 min walk and repeat and build up from there. I do this once or twice a week, depending on the horse. It is important at this stage that the horse is lunged in large circles of about 20m. I use a chambon or EquiAmi which aids the horse to stretch and loosen.

Week 5

I introduce cantering work, again gradually building this up. I’m very lucky that I have very generous neighbours who let me use their brilliant old turf, which takes a lot of rain and doesn’t get too firm in the summer. The land is hilly which aids useful long slow work for the horse. I don’t do a lot of fast work as I believe the hills help to make the horse work hard. I do however have great gallops, which I am lucky to be able to use in West Haddon. The Gallops have a really good pull up hill which get’s them blowing and increases their heart rate. I finishing off with a ride around at the top to keep them blowing and working longer.

Week 6

I use the water treadmill twice a week, as I think it is fantastic for core fitness, flexibility, suppleness and strengthening. It is essential to keep the horses happy in their work and use a variety of different exercise methods for all round fitness. The weekly routine and training programme for each horse may vary from week to week and is dependant on many factors e.g. what off-site training we are doing, injuries, body build and even character! Each horse will have its own individual training schedule, for example some need more canter work (usually the fatties or less TB types) and some horses need more work in the school. I would recommend seeking a reputable trainer and providing your horse has a clean bill of heath; your trainer should be able to provide you with your own training programme to suit both horse and rider.

Correctly Fitting Tack

It is very important to make sure you have your saddle checked by a qualified saddle fitter at least 3 or 4 times a year; as horses change shape and weight when they are getting fit and competing. A badly fitting saddle can be very performance debilitating.

My horses are also treated every few months by either a Equine Physio, Osteopath or McTimoney Practitioner, to aid muscle and skeletal suppleness and balance.

Feeding Advice

I feed TopSpec feed as it is straight forward with every horse having Comprehensive Balancer and TopChop Sport, then adding Performance Cubes when required. I love these cubes as they are free from cereal grains and low in sugar. TopSpec UlsaKind Cubes are also good for competition horses as they help to protect their gut from acid. Good quality forage is essential. I personally prefer hay to haylage as it has less starch and sugar and is less likely to make the horse overweight. Hay is also more ulcer friendly as it isn’t as acidic.

Tips On Planning Your Diary

Make sure you take your horse show jumping and XC schooling plenty of times before you plan your first event to ensure you are both confident and on the same wavelength. Dressage competitions are also good practice before eventing. I usually enter my horses at the level below what they are competing at for their first event of the season to give them a confident outing; then kick on. With young horses starting their career in eventing, I like to XC school them between their first 4 or 5 events, just to make sure that if they have an awkward moment at something, this does not become an issue next time out. It is also good education for them to travel to different places. We regularly go to Aston Le Walls where Nigel Taylor helps me. The facilities are brilliant, especially the all-weather surfaces. The fences are also moved regularly so there are always different lines to ride.

Be Event Fit: Rider Tips

As riders we sometimes forget we are meant to be athletes too! It is very important we help the horse and not hinder their performance, so attention must be paid to rider fitness. Pilates and running are both excellent exercise as Pilate's help to keep you supple and strengthen your core, whilst running is good cardiovascular exercise.

Header Photo: Ibby and ‘Ballingowan Diamond’ at Bramham International Horse Trials 2018 Photo courtesy of 1stclassimages.com

Ibby macpherson