It’s a scenario Sable Giesler knows well. The 21-year-old eventer from Powassan, ON, often rode two horses at the lower levels in her teens and now regularly campaigns three, as she did recently at Little Bromont in Quebec. Her advanced horses, Devil Munchkin, an eight-year-old KWPN gelding owned by the Munchkin Syndicate and FE Party Munchkin, her own seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding, competed at preliminary level, while Dally’s Munchkin, a four-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding also owned by the Munchkin Syndicate, ran at entry level.
Here are her tips to successfully manage riding multiple horses:
1. The key is to make a plan. The good thing about eventing is you know your start times. I figure out how much time I’ll need to tack up, for course walks and warm-ups, and I make notes on my phone. I like to allot 30 minutes for a dressage warm-up and about 15 minutes for jumping warm-ups.
2. It’s great if you have a helper. My dad, Geof, usually comes along, but I don’t have a groom, so if Dad can’t make it, I’m on my own. I bathe and braid the horses the night before. When it’s time to load, I put them on the trailer so the first horse I’ll have to ride will be the last one I load and first one off. I’ll leave two horses on the trailer until I need them. I open the windows, they stick their heads out and are quite happy to chill in the trailer. It’s easier having three along than two, as no one gets lonely.
3. Course walks depend on the length of the course, but a preliminary course walk shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes. Once we were pressed for time at Rocking Horse and my coach, Kyle Carter, had us put on our running shoes and we literally ran the course! I have a cross-country app for my phone that’s very useful. I can take photos and scroll through and look at the jumps later. It maps out the course, which I love.
4. I’ll find time to sit quietly for a few minutes to review my dressage tests before the rides so I don’t get them mixed up. It’s easier if you’re riding two horses in the same division, as you have fewer dressage tests to remember and fewer courses to walk.
5. You want to be organized so you aren’t searching for anything. I have my tack room organized at home so everything is in its place there and I put everything I’ll need on fold-up saddle racks at the show. After I finish one phase, I get everything organized for the next phase. If time’s tight, my dad will put a horse’s bridle and boots on and bring the horse by the ring so I can switch tack from one horse to the next. The pros have saddles for every horse, but I only have one dressage saddle and one jumping saddle. At least they all have their own bridles!