How to Get Started with Eventing: Preparation and What to Wear

Eventing is a true test for equestrians, combining dressage, show jumping and cross country. Both horse and rider must work in harmony to perform at their best. Have you been thinking about giving eventing a go? Dreaming of galloping round Badminton Horse Trials, or maybe just your local One Day Event (ODE)? Read our guide to find out how to get started with eventing and make your dream a reality.

In this blog:

  1. Preparing for Your First Event
  2. What to Wear for Eventing
  3. Eventing Essentials for Your Horse

 Preparing for Your First Event

Eventing is unique in that in combines three different disciplines. At the top levels, each discipline will be on a different day but at the lower levels you will typically complete your dressage, show jumping and cross country round on the same day. It can be challenging to get all three phases right on the day so it’s a good idea to practise them individually.

Try to get out to a few dressage or show jumping competitions before going eventing. Alternatively, hire an arena with dressage boards set up or a full course of show jumps so you and your horse are used to what will be required of you on the day. 

Dressage phase of eventing

Once you’re confident that you can master the dressage and show jumping, it’s time to focus on the favourite phase of eventers: the cross country. While it’s possible to practise your dressage test and pop over some show jumps at home, it’s a bit trickier to ride over solid fences unless you’re lucky enough to have a cross country course at your yard.

See if there are any cross country clinics being run near you that are aimed at horses or riders new to eventing. Alternatively, hire a cross country schooling course and take your instructor, or a friend with a trusty horse who can give you a lead if necessary. Hunter trials are also a great way to ride a full course and you can also enter pairs events to build your confidence by going round with a friend. 

Cross Country Training for Horses

Once you have a date in mind for your first event, you will want to make sure you and your horse are fit enough to compete. Eventing can be quite demanding so it’s a good idea to include some faster work into your horse’s schedule to build up their speed and stamina. Remember to make any changes to their workload gradually and include a mix of work on different surfaces to reduce the risk of injury. 

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What to Wear for Eventing

With three phases to compete in it can seem like you need lots of different outfits and kit! A good pair of white or beige breeches will see you through all the phases. You can also wear the same long boots, or short boots and gaiters throughout the day.

For dressage and show jumping, you’ll need a shirt and show jacket. These are traditionally worn with a stock or tie.

Cross country is where you can show your personality a bit with different colours and styles. Eventers will often have their ‘cross country colours’ so their hat cover and top match. You can even match your horse to this with coordinated saddlecloths and boots. A solid coloured base layer is a great option too though.

Body Protector Mandatory for Cross Country

Body protectors are required for the cross country phase and these must meet the BETA Level 3 standard. You will also need a riding hat without a fixed peak that meets current safety standards.

Other accessories that are useful are gloves, spurs if required and a number bib if this isn’t supplied by the event.

If you’re unsure on any of the dress requirements, you can always check the rules or contact the event organisers for clarification. At unaffiliated shows there is sometimes bit of leniency on the dress code to allow more riders to have a go at the sport.

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Eventing Essentials for Your Horse

Your horse can use their normal saddle and bridle for eventing. Some riders may have a separate dressage and jump saddle they can use but it’s totally fine to use a general purpose saddle for all three phases. You will need to check that your horse’s bit is dressage legal though as not all bits are permitted.

Boots are allowed for warming up but not during the dressage test. A pair of tendon and fetlock boots are a popular choice for show jumping. For cross country, you will want to ensure your horse’s legs are protected from striking against each other the solid obstacles. When looking for a pair of boots, it’s good to not only consider the level of protection but how lightweight and breathable the boots are as you don’t want to risk the legs overheating. The Equilibrium Tri-Zone Impact Sports Boots are specifically designed for cross country. Over reach boots are also worn if your horse is prone to catching their front heels.

 Horse Boots for Eventing

You can’t go wrong with a smart white saddlecloth for dressage and show jumping. When going cross country, you might choose to match your saddlecloth to your cross country colours.

If your horse needs a martingale, this can be worn for show jumping and cross country. A breastplate can also be a key piece of kit when galloping round the cross country course to keep your saddle secure.

Finally, you may want to consider studs to give your horse more grip. There are lots of different types of studs to suit different ground conditions. You will need your farrier to put stud holes in so consult with them about the number and position of holes you might need. If you’re unsure of whether you need studs, or which type of use then consult your instructor who will be able to advise on what will suit your horse.

Are you ready to give eventing a go? If you and your horse are out competing this season we would love to see some photos. Be sure to share them with us by using #harnessstuff or tagging @harnessstuff on social media. You can also email us at

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