More Tips From The Top – Emma and Kevin McNab share their event preparation tips

June 4, 2021 9:21 am by
Posted in Kevin & Emma McNab, News

International event riders Emma and Kevin McNab share their event preparation tips – Part II

What are your schooling tips to get a horse fit for an event?
The fitness of a horse depends on the level it is competing at. All horses need a good basic level of fitness and we build this up over 8-12 weeks by including a variety of flatwork/jumping/hacking/cantering. Up to novice level we canter our horses once a week but do very little fast galloping work because to compete up to this level they don’t need to do a lot of galloping. For our horses competing from 3-5* their galloping programs start 12 weeks out from a big event. We will usually gallop them once every 4 or 5 days during these 12 weeks. This program begins after 8-12 weeks of basic training.

Do you use hacking/hill work to get your horses fit?
We do both because not only are they good for fitness, but they are also important for the horses’ balance and temperament. We are lucky enough to have a hacking/canter track at our yard and the horses go out on that once a week.

If we worked on a perfectly level surface daily, then went to an event that was on unlevel grassy hills and expected them to have the same balance it would be fair to say this would be very difficult for them. Event horses must have very good foot work and be equipped to perform on sometimes terrible going, so, diversity in training surfaces is key and hacking is great training for this. Being able to ride out in the open and not always around the school is very important for a horses’ frame of mind – if you make variety part of the routine their focus will be much better when you get to a show.

Is feeding a consideration?
Absolutely – we adjust the horses feed depending on their stage of fitness. If their energy levels are too high, we reduce their hard feed or change it to a lower energy feed. Regardless of the adjustments we make sure the horses always have plenty of hay/haylage and grass in the field. 

How much jumping, cross country and flat work is done prior to an event and is this scaled back the nearer you get?
Our horses are in full work for at least eight weeks before a competition. They are ridden six days a week. One or two of these days we jump them, one day is dedicated to a hacking/fitness, three or four days to dressage and they have one day off. The level of the horse determines how often we will go cross country schooling. For our older, upper-level horses this might only be once or twice before an event just to refresh everything. For the younger ones who are starting their careers this would be a couple of times each week before competing.

Our program prior to a show depends on each horse and which competition we are going to. For example, when we have a fit horse at a 4/5* event we will school them on the flat twice the day before they do their dressage to make sure their energy level is right for the dressage phase. This is not possible at one-day events as it would mean they would be ridden four times that day!

We like to jump most of our horses two days before a show and then the day before we always do flatwork and run through our dressage test for the next day.

Our aim is for the horses to get to a show with an energy level that they can perform at their best. Usually this means we make sure we do enough work in the week leading up to the show rather than reducing the work. Each horse’s ideal energy level varies but we tend to have quite thoroughbred horses so not having the energy level too high is ideal for them to achieve their maximum output.