There comes a time in your dressage journey when you and your horse are ready for more. Sometimes this means heading off to your first recognized dressage show. Deciding that you want to go is the easy part and once you do, you may have a lot of questions. There are a few things that do not change between a schooling show and a recognized one. You will still ride the same USEF dressage tests in your Sunday best, but there are some added requirements for competing at recognized shows. So once you and your trainer decide on your first show, here are some things to consider:
First, you will need to get a hold of the show bill. This will have all the information you need including your entry form and can usually be found with a quick Google search. The show bill will have the dates of the competition, the opening and closing dates (dates in which you are allowed to send in your show entries), stabling information, a class list and information specific to that venue. When you find the show bill for your competition, print it off and make sure that you have a copy of the entry form as well.
Next, figure out if the venue far enough away to require a hotel? If so, decide on your arrival date (typically the day prior to the competition) and confirm the time that venue allows you to arrive with your horse. Some facilities prefer that you arrive after a specific time and this information should be posted in the show bill. Once you figure out when you are arriving, find a hotel close to the show grounds. Some competitions have a "host hotel" that offers a special rate for the show. Check around though, because sometimes the hotel they suggest is not always the best option. I like to be as close to the facilility as possible, so I can easily get back and forth to check on my horse. After you make your reservation, be sure to record your confirmation number and arrival date. I have driven 8 hours to a horse show, walked in to the front desk only to have someone look at me like I am crazy when I say that I'm checking in. They completely lost my reservation! Now those of you who know me, will not be surprised to know that I brought a printed copy of my confirmation email in with me (just a little OCD!) which was the only reason we had a place to sleep that night. So make sure you keep your records on hand!
Now you need to start filling out that entry form! First, go over the entire entry form and fill out all of the easy stuff. Print your name, address, your horses information...ect. When it comes to your horses breed registration number, sire and dam names, don't worry if you don't know this information! Your horse does not need to be registered with a breed registry to compete. If your horse is registered, this information will be required for score tracking and breed awards. When it comes to filling out the "coach" and "trainer" information on the entry form, make sure you are aware of their definitions. Your horses trainer is the adult (over 18) who is physically present at the competition and is responsible for your horses health and welfare. More than likely, this is you. Your coach is the person who gives you lessons.
So now you are ready to choose your classes. Find the test you want to ride on the class list. Usually all tests are offered on each day of the competition, so make sure you pick the correct class number. For example, Second Level Test 1 may be class #40 on Saturday, but class number #80 on Sunday. Each class is also divided into three groups: Junior/Young Rider, Adult Amatuer and Open. Junior/Young Riders are competitors under 21 years of age and an Open rider is anyone who accepts payment for training of horses and/or riders, everyone else will be compete as Adult Amateurs. So be sure to confirm your class number before you fill out this portion of your entry form.
Now comes the most confusing part... membership numbers and requirements. In order to compete in a recognized dressage show, you need to be a member of USDF and USEF in some manner. First, lets discuss your horses options. If you plan on competing for more than one or two seasons, lifetime memberships are your best choice. A yearly membership for USDF costs $25, while a lifetime membership costs $95. Your horse will need a lifetime membership to be eligible for Regional Championships and this number will never need to be renewed again. A yearly membership for USEF costs $75, while a lifetime membership costs $200. The same information goes for USEF. If you want to try to qualify for Regionals at any point, your horse will need to be a lifetime member of both USDF and USEF. The pros to a lifetime membership for your horse is that it is a one time fee that you will never have to renew and it will make your horse eligible for all awards and championships. In regards to the owner and rider memberships, I prefer year to year memberships which covers everything you need. Once you receive your membership cards, you will need to make some copies. I like to try and fit all 4 cards (my USDF/USEF and my horses USDF/USEF) onto one sheet of paper. If you visit www.eqverification.org they will put all of your memberships onto one page for you to print as well, which is quite convenient! You will need to include this with your entry form and a copy of your Negative Coggins Test.
Last, but not least, will be your stabling information. Make sure you clearly state when you will be arriving, if you want a tack stall (an extra stall for your tack) and if you are stabling with a group. If your trainer or friends are traveling together, you can request to be stabled together. In order to do this, you will need to all use the same group name (for example "Blackburn Dressage") that way everyone who uses that group name will be stabled together.
Once you fill out your form, put it in an envelope with your membership copies, coggins and a check or money order and you are ready to send it off! You should get your ride times the week prior to the competition. Make sure you contact the show manager immediately if you find any errors.
Hopefully this has helped you in the process of entering your first recognized competition. Now all of you have to do is memorize your test, groom your horse, clean your tack, hook up the trailer, fill the truck up, pack your show clothes...
Happy riding!!! :)