The Riding Blog

A.K.A. "Michael's Meanderings"

News, education, fun snippets, tips, tricks, and so much more! Subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you don't miss out!

Yearly Competition Planning

goals organizing tips Nov 28, 2023
excel sheet showing competition schedule

How do you plan out the competition year with when/where/levels/etc?

This is something I've done for many many years now. I make an excel sheet with all possible competitions, then start narrowing down in a process. As you can see, I write down the dates of each weekend on the left side of the sheet. Then go through the USEA calendar and mark down any possible competitions that I would consider (based on distance away, levels offered, etc.). Then I mark down the opening and closing dates so that I have quick access to those.  After that are the levels offered at that competition. Then I have a column for each horse on what my plan would be for what level they would compete at. And then finally a column for notes on what the USEA calendar says in terms of what days they would run, or if it is too far out for that to be published, then I go back in the USEA calendar archive and look at how it ran the previous year so that I at least have an idea. I like knowing the days, one to know when I'd need to leave and come back, but also because I really don't like 1-day competitions. It's just a lot to do in 1 day, especially with a 2nd horse, and one-days are just slightly less enjoyable to me as I don't feel I really get to take the time to experience and enjoy it. Some people prefer 1-days for various reasons, but I just try to avoid them unless I *need* to go there.

Weekends with two or more competition possibilities get the levels separated by 3 semi colons just to keep it understandable.


Once I have all of that info down (minus what level I want to enter each horse at, as that is the last step after deciding where to go), then this is my process:


First, I figure out what sort of main/major goals I might have for the year. This photo is from the 2023 season, which went *WAY* haywire with Jack not competing, MER rule changes, and then issues during the season. But I wanted to use it as an example.

So there were two major goals for this past year. 1 was to go Advanced (which didn't happen). The other was to qualify and compete at the 3*L at the Maryland 5* (which did happen, although it didn't end how I had hoped).

So I figure out when/where I can make those major goals happen and select those competitions. In the case of this calendar, obviously that means I highlighted the Maryland 5*, then also 3 possibilities for Advanced at New Jersey, Millbrook, and Tryon. 

Now this calendar already reflected some changes of having to re-route to River Glen instead of Millbrook, but you still get the idea.

Then if there are any things complicating those major goals, I make some notes on the side and plan out what I need to do to solve those problems. For example, to get to the 3*L at Maryland, I needed to qualify both horses at the 3*S level. I wrote possibilities down of how to qualify and then figured out which competitions I then needed to go to in order to do so, and mark those down as selections. In this case, it was Fair Hill in April, and then I made a note on the side that I'd reroute to Tryon in May if I didn't get the MERs, but otherwise would skip Tryon in May and go back to Fair Hill with just a regular Intermediate as it's closer (and cheaper versus FEI).

Then I just fill in the rest of the season between all of those major goals and qualifications. In terms of how frequently I compete, it would depend a little bit on the level and the age/experience/fitness of the horse. When I first got Cay, he was 6 years old, had done a year of Prelim/2*, and I took him out the first spring at 3 Novices within 2 weeks down in Aiken just to throw myself in the deep end and figure him out. Having done 2* already in his life, the little Novice jumps and fields were almost just a warm-up to him, so I didn't mind doing 3 back-to-back like that. Obviously I wouldn't do that consistently, but I wanted to utilize the Aiken vacation as best I could, plus XC schooling at home is non-existent until sometimes May. So I wanted as much exposure and experience with him as I could to last me until I could get out XC schooling more consistently.



Anyway, as far as competing at Prelim or above, I typically try to give them 4-6 weeks between competitions. Occasionally, I may do a 3-week gap, but usually only in the spring when I can't XC school in NE Ohio, so I prefer the shorter gap so that XC stays fresher. Otherwise, 4 week is the minimum, and I prefer 5 or 6 week gaps. So then filling in the rest of the competitions around the major goals mostly involves just selecting where to go that lines up with that 4-6 week window between competitions.



Obviously as you can see, the yellow highlights are the competitions.

Two other items: One is the red highlight I have on there. That is my LandSafe clinic, which I use the Red color for because it's not moving dates. The yellow competitions could technically move around if I need to change plans and reroute like I did this year. But the red is there as a permanent fixture. 

The other item I will do, but isn't shown here, is that if I'm undecided between two competitions (usually on consecutive weekends), I will highlight both in green to remind me that I need to choose at some point between those two green options. It may be a decision based on how the horses feel in the couple of months leading up to that, or it may be because of distance, or if there is a wait to see what levels get approved for the competition, or other factors. 

I know this may be information overload for my less organized friends, but this is how my highly organized brain needs to function and plan ahead, so hopefully it will help those of you who are looking for a method to organize your 2024 competition season!

Enjoy what you've read? Why not sign up for the full Equine Academy Membership! Get exclusive access to dozens of hours of premium educational videos to supercharge your riding education!

Sign Up Today!

Want Helpful Riding Tips?

Subscribe to the newsletter for tips, tricks, opinions, theories, and so much more! Get notified whenever there is new content so that you don't miss out!

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.