As I briefly mentioned in my post on Monday, I’ve decided on a new “big” goal for next year. Because it’s fun to set big goals really far in advance. Just like I did last year with AEC. Not nerve-wracking at all. Nope. Not even a little.
I have always been a fan of long format eventing, or as some people now call it, “classic format”. When I was first introduced to eventing in the early 2000’s, things were just starting to change over to the short format. My one trip to Rolex in 2000 was when they still were still running it the “Classic” way, and I still remember it vividly.
For those who don’t remember or don’t follow eventing, the major difference is that the long format has 4 phases to Cross Country day (called Endurance day) instead of just one. Phase A is Roads and Tracks – basically a w/t/c warm-up of a certain length of time/distance. Phase B is steeplechase – galloping at speed over brush fences. Phase C is more roads and tracks – to cool down from Phase B. And then finally Phase D is cross country itself. Phases A, B, and C are concurrent but there’s a 10 minute hold in the vet box – from which your horse must be cleared as being fit to continue – before Phase D.
While the long format no longer exists at the upper levels, USEA (good ol’ USEA oh how I love thee) started a program in 2012 called the Classic Series. This series allows show organizers to offer long format 3 day events at the lower levels – from BN through Preliminary. Right now there is only one Prelim level 3 Day (in Kentucky) and one BN level 3 Day (in South Carolina), but Novice and Training level are more popular. Surely you guys can see where this is going?
I sat down and looked at the schedule to see who offers a Novice 3DE, and the closest ones are Arizona (Coconino) and Colorado (Colorado Horse Park). Both courses look very straightforward and do-able. Coconino is a 15 hour drive and Colorado is a 13 hour drive – not much difference. They’re both in the summer, just a few weeks apart. Being that Henry is not a hot weather horse, the determining factor was weather. Coconino is in Flagstaff, which is the high desert, so the average high temp for July is 80 and the average low is 50. The lows are cold enough to where I’d have to bring his sheet! IN JULY! What do I say to that? I say SIGN ME THE HELL UP. (I mean really, look at the videos from Coconino and tell me you don’t want to spend a week in the pine trees)
These Classic Series events are pretty damn cool. They set it up such that it’s more like half clinic/half competition. You have meetings where they teach you how to properly present your horse for the jog-up, what to do in the vet box, and steeplechase practice where they help you learn how to ride at speed over fences. You have in-barn inspections and jog-ups. You have 3 separate distinct days of competition, culminating in a show jumping day run in reverse order of standing. You have a whole ‘nother special dressage test to learn (2012 USEA Novice 3-Day Event Test, I’ve got my eye on you).
And that’s not to mention all the prep. The introduction of 3 more phases on XC day creates a unique challenge in itself. The preparation and fitness required for the N3DE are no where near the 4* level of days past, but it’s certainly more than an average Novice level horse would need. The USEA guidelines for N3DE endurance day look like this:
ENDURANCE SPECIFICATIONS – NOVICE
Phase A: Time: 10-16 minutes
Distance: 2200-3520 meters
Speed: 220 mpm (about a medium trot)
Phase B: Time: 2 or 3 minutes
Distance: 940-1410 meters
Speed: 470 mpm (between T and P XC pace – true gallop but not super forward)
Brush Height: 3’3”
Solid Height: 2’9”
Phase C: Time: 15-25 minutes
Distance: 2400-5500 meters
Speed: 160 or 220 mpm
Phase D: Distance: 1600-2200 meters
Speed: 400 mpm
Until I get there I won’t know what the exact distances and times are, so I have to just prepare for the max. Can my horse trot for 16 minutes straight, gallop and jump for 3, trot another 25 minutes straight, take a 10 minute break, run XC, and still feel fresh afterward? Not right now, no. As you can see, that’s more work than a Novice horse would typically be prepared to do in one day (unless you’re one of those people that does seriously long and intense warm-ups), especially a day sandwiched between a dressage test/steeplechase practice day and show jumping day. Conditioning is the name of the game and the name of the game is conditioning. The idea isn’t just to survive – the idea is to finish endurance day with a sound, happy, healthy, energetic horse that will pass the jog-up the next day and be raring to go for stadium. They should be fit enough that endurance day is easy.
Interval work, trot sets, and gallop days have already been a part of our repertoire for a while now. Lately I started adding in long trot days (you don’t realize how many walk breaks you normally take until you set out with the intent of trotting for 20 minutes straight) and longer walk days (seriously, try the snoozefest that is known as walking for an hour) as well… we usually have two “conditioning days” per week. Really we won’t start gearing up for Coconino until late winter, but I like for Henry’s base level of fitness to be higher than what he really needs, and always want him to finish XC looking like he can go around again. I truly believe that a fit horse is a sound horse is a capable horse is a confident horse… tired, fat, unfit horses are more susceptible to injury and error. I think the extra miles and time and work will be good for both of us. There will be schedules to make, legs to ice, hooves to pack, and lots of learning to be done.
So there you go. The goal is officially out there on the interwebs now. We’ve got 11 months to plan and get ourselves qualified (just need 3 more completions at Novice) and then get more fit and ready to go. And you know what else long format means? Super important things like jog outfits.
***NOTE: if you’re interested in supporting the Classic Series and long format eventing, visit this site and consider making a donation. All proceeds go to the organizers of classic format events, to help keep them running!