by Crystal L. Smithwick aka Mistress Ynesen Ongge Xong Kerij-e
This article could also be labeled, "Things I learned the hard way." I haven't owned a horse all that long, and certainly have never taken her to anything but trail rides before my first event. I overpacked and I underpacked, but I learned a lot and we both had a good time. I still haven't been to a lot of SCA events, but each time is a little less stressful.
Going to an event is stressful under any circumstances, but taking your horse can increase that stress threefold. But by being prepared, you can minimize that stress for both you and your horse.
SCA events come in many flavors, choosing the right event as a first event can make the experience a fun one.
Day trip - Day trips can be a good first event if it is close to your barn. It gives you a chance to play without the stress of packing a camp for yourself, paddocks for your horse including feeding and stall cleaning. All you need is the usual paraphernalia for a trail ride or show, plus any SCA weapons.
Camping events - Camping with your horse can be fun. Most equestrian events allow you to camp close to your horse, but it usually means being far from the action of the rest of the event.
Arena vs open field - The type of space can make a difference. Not all horses are comfortable outside the confines of an arena. Not all riders are either. Goes the other way too, kinda claustrophobic. Know how your horse and you feel about such things.
Types of activities - Not all events are created equal. Some events are ride all day, other events have only a few hours a day.
Knowing what you're getting into and don't assume anything
Get as much information as possible about the event. Make sure that horses are allowed. In the SCA, only events with an EMIC and a special insurance certificate can have horses. If you show up with a horse, you'll be turned away at the gate.
How long will it take to get there? Is pre-registration required? What shots, proof of ownership, etc are required. Most An Tir events require the 4-way, Strangles, and West Nile.
The horse accommodations can run the gamut from full out stables with run outs to a bare patch of dirt, and everything in between. Even sites that have stalls, might be rarely used or previously used for storage.
- Will there be stalls, if so is bedding included? Don't assume water buckets, hay nets or even locks will be available.
- Do you need to bring an portable paddock? Many SCA events are on primitive sites with no horse facilities and a portable electric paddock is the usual solution. We haven't used high-lining in An Tir that I know of.
- Turnouts are not common practice in An Tir, your horse may need to stay in its stall or paddock when it is not actually being used.
Preparing your horse
This could be a whole article in itself (and should be), but some things you may want to consider. Common obstacles at events are:
- Lots of waiting
- Banners, tents and flappy things
- Dogs and children
- Other horses in close proximity
- Loud noises (drums, armor clashing, cars, etc.)
What to take!
A Packing List
Truck and Trailer
- Check your lights.
- Check your brakes.
- Check that the latch is secure.
- Check your tie hooks, thingies. your horse may spend a lot of time tied to them. Don't want them breaking off.
Hopefully you asked which entrance to go to and have a general idea where Equestrian is going to be held. Often the gate people aren't aware of horse activities, so be patient. But again, forewarned is forearmed. If possible find out from the autocrat which entrance to go to.
DON'T FORGET TO SIGN THE EQUESTRIAN WAVIER. Be a good citizen and make sure you sign the waivers for all of your family, including minor children. Even if you have a blue card, you need to sign the equestrian waiver. Anyone in your group that is going to be around the horses, riding, or helping should sign the waiver.
I usually wait to check things out before I unload the horses. I make sure the stalls are ready for them, usually they are bare and bedding needs to be put down. Check the gate lock/fastener. Check the ground, it isn't unusually for stalls to have been used for storage or have been empty for a while, best to make sure no stray nails are underfoot.
If you are putting up a paddock, remember that long grass drains the power from the fencing. In really primitive sites, you may need to cut a perimeter for your fencing.
Things to find out as soon as you get on site:
I usually find that picking the stalls and refilling the water the first thing in the morning is the most convenient. After competing, we're all usually so tired, it's a relief to be able to just release your hose into its stall knowing all you need to do is toss a couple flakes in for the night.
During the day, there will be lots of things going on. Lots of hurry up and wait. Keep your horse within the designated equestrian area.
Never enough hands to help with tear down. Many hands make small work.
Arenas may not always be open for use. An equestrian marshal is required. Check the schedule or with the EMIC.
If you are not going to be camping near your horse, make sure that there is contact information on your stall and someone to check on your horse during the night.
The SCA has always prided itself in leaving things cleaner than we found them, and that includes the stalls, fields, and pathways we use for equestrian. Take a few minutes to help pick up the common areas of manure, hay, trash, etc.
Leaving either a little earlier than everyone or waiting to the last can help you avoid the long lines getting out of events. But don't make the autocrat wait for you!
If you are planning on getting home before dark is my preference. My horses live in an upper field that isn't lit. Luckily our trailer has an exterior and interior lights so we can unload.
(c) All rights reserved by the author. 2005