What Was Your Rookie Mistake?

Sitting in lectures this weekend for my continuing education requirement and something struck me. A surgeon was discussing a new technique to fix fifth metatarsal fractures through a percutaneous incision and said “anytime you learn a new procedure make sure you ask them what the rookie mistakes are” and I thought “huh”.

When doctors try to be funny. A slide from
one of the lectures

My first HT is in two short weeks. It is not optimal to be sitting in another state right now instead of riding but if I don’t get these hours I don’t renew my license and then I can’t afford to show at all so….life. I’m plotting ways to sneak in both another xc school and riding in a real dressage ring for the first time prior to the show. If not then when’s a better time to run through your dressage test for the first time than at the show itself??


There are certainty worse views out of your hotel window

As I’m sitting here, I’m wondering what are the rookie mistakes at a HT? Throw them out there please!

I should clarify some things. We are running tadpole which is BN A dressage, 2’ stadium and 2’ xc with a 300 mpm speed and 4 mandatory fences with all others being BN and optional. This is in my wheelhouse as far as complexity and training goes. Trainer AB will be there for me to help with my warm up (from the ground, she is not permitted on the horse once the show officially starts Friday night) and walking courses and will give me a plan of attack for all phases.

My only goals for this show are to complete all three phases and to capture that feeling I had at the jumper show of having the time of my life. Otherwise why bother? My life is stressful enough. My hobby must be fun.

Don’t care about the ribbon. I want that smile during and after the show.

So….outside of the above what are some rookie mistakes you’ve made or seen others make at their first HT that maybe I could prevent with some knowledge? Funny, helpful anything you can think of please!

24 thoughts on “What Was Your Rookie Mistake?”

  1. Rookie mistakes (ahem…yeah me)
    1)Be sure you jump the correct way in warmup (red to the right) I had no clue back when i started and no one told me and had someone yell at me that i was ‘doing it wrong’ oops)
    2) Learn the courses backward and forward, on Cross Country, i have been that person who slows down enough so i can find the next jump, yeah dont be me (I found it). Stadium is easier but CC can get squirrely in your brain even if you walk the course dozens of times! HA
    3) Be on time for all phases. Also dont let the gate people bully you into going early unless you want to. Been there, tried that (Ask Emma it has happened to her too) Dont be a doormat. Stand firm (but nice). Unless you want to get that shit over, then go early 🙂

    HAVE FUN, REMEMBER TO BREATHE and remember 2 feet is even scalable at a walk if you are having issues (who me? Never hahahha)…..

    Can’t wait for you guys to go to this it will be FUN!


    1. I had to ask someone at the jumper show if it was red on right (alliteration) or white in right (rhyming). Thankfully they were nice to me.

      Thankfully AB will be around to help make sure I’m on time and know my courses and for sure 2’ is my height cuz I can walk if I need to!!! LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Are your stirrups backwards? It looks like the black branch is facing out?

    Honestly I would just have fun and be ready to roll with whatever things don’t go to plan. The biggest rookie mistake is taking things too seriously and getting yourself too stressed out and worked up, and then melting down when something goes awry. Know your test and have a plan for everything, for sure, but also be flexible and know that not everything is going to go to plan. Have plans B C D and E too, so that when plan A doesn’t work out, you aren’t panicking. Focus on each phase in the moment, and when one phase is done put it away and focus on the next. Enjoy the day, eyes up, and kick on!


    1. Apparently the were 🤦‍♀️ I’ve taken to removing them when I trailer tacked or they scratch my saddle flap. I thought I put them on correctly right before mounting but not so much.

      Having fun is my #1 goal. AB will be around to keep me grounded too. Her complete nonchalance about things really has a calming effect on my typically high strung nerves. But really all I want is to have the same feeling I did at the jumper show which was pure fun and feeling lucky I even got to be there.


  3. Hmmmm It hasn’t been that long since my first horse trial. I would say having a trainer with you REALLY helps.

    1. Have a plan for when you start your watch before XC. Most new people assume that you hit the start button when you leave the box, but that’s a surefire way to forget. I usually start it when they start counting me down.

    2. Create a narrative when learning XC. Learn jump one: “Straight out of the box and over the coup.” then when you learn jump two, add it to jump one. “Straight out of the box and over the coup and then swoop left between the trees to the hanging log.” This really helps me visualize my plan before I ride it and keep my nerves at bay.

    3. Check in with the ring stewards in each phase. It makes their lives a ton easier if they aren’t trying to track you down in a crowded warm up.

    4. Organize your show stuff by phase. Dressage stuff on top. XC stuff (if that’s the last phase) on the bottom. At some point, someone is going to grab something for you who isnt familiar with your equipment. It’s easier if that phase is just right on top when they need it.

    5. As soon as you think about your medical armband, just put it on. I always forget mine, so I attach it to my breastplate (which I only use in jumping phases)

    6. Thank everyone. Seriously. Thank the judge in Dressage, thank all the volunteers, thank the starter on XC. Thank the secretary in the office. It means a lot.

    And have a blast!


    1. I don’t even own a watch and wasn’t planning on getting one for the event. At 300 mpm it basically a trot and I’m good with not knowing that aspect.

      That’s a great idea to remember not only the jumps but the path to getting to them correctly.

      I will make sure to check in! Thanks for that tip.

      I only own one set of stuff that will be used for all phases except when I ditch my show coat for the xc vest. Makes it even easier to remember HA!

      Ooh! I would have forgotten an arm band. I need to ask the secretary if they accept road ID bracelets. Some do and some don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds good! My watch is a super cheap running watch. Maybe a timex? It’s a stop watch on my wrist hahaha That’s all it needs to do.


      2. I agree with not wearing a watch at this level. I didn’t wear one until I was going Training. I needed to know how things felt, rather than riding the watch.


  4. I don’t wear and watch and won’t until I’m solidly going Novice so I wouldn’t even worry about that. USEA allows road IDs and I’ve never had a schooling HT go against USEA for that, so I’d think you’d be fine. Honestly we glanced at them at AECs, but I’ve never had someone actively look for mine. I never take mine off so I have no chance of forgetting it!

    Great advice here, in terms of practical things… Don’t forget to ride through your finish flags in SJ and XC! They might be a few strides away from the last jump. Look for them on your coursewalks!


    1. Ooh…thanks for the reminder about the finish flags! At the hunter/jumper show I didn’t know you had to do an end circle after the last fence. The gate steward was all “um…are you going to circle?” I laughed!


      1. Yep! I saw something once that said disappointment is created when reality doesn’t live up to expectations and that really resonated with me when it comes to horses. If we never expect things to go a certain way, we can just work on improving what we get and be pleased with the progress no matter how small.


  5. breathe. don’t panic if you feel like you forgot your cross country course while you’re out there, you know it! Just take a beat. make nice circles in your dressage test.


    if you have an uphill somewhere on course let your horse have a little romp on it 😀 😀 😀

    Reading your post reminded me of my very first event ever and I am smiling at the memory. It was such a good day!


    1. Thats all I want – to have fun during and be able to look back with a smile. If I can accomplish that, I’m winning. I’m a bit worried Sir Chunksalot is going to be pretty tired by the time we get to xc which should play in my favor as far as his love of bucking after xc fences.


  6. Yay so exciting!!! I’m so happy this is finally happening!! And omg rookie mistakes, god I make so many. At my second ever HT I fell off bc of something I hadn’t noticed on my course walk…. at my first BN I had a refusal when I should have just circled…. I’ve gotten TEs and errors in dressage and all manner of other mistakes. Basically experience is that thing you get right after you needed it lol. But that’s ok – that’s part of the fun too!! Hope you’re so so so excited!!


    1. You know, it is odd to me. Typically I get myself so nervous and worked up about stuff like this on the calendar but not this time. I can’t FREAKING wait until next weekend regardless of if any of my plotting for this week pans out or not. For the first time I really want to go and have fun regardless of how we look or what the outcome is (well..I want to come home healthy for us both)


  7. My rookie mistake was, I kid you not, trying to show off for Husband/kids/photographer ONE FENCE FROM HOME (on XC, last phase) and aiming P right past the fence for 20 penalties.

    I’m so excited for you!


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