Early Days

On Moving Up

Pony hiding in a pepper tree!

First of all, my entries are in and hotel is booked for the Fresno County Horse Park event at the end of the month!  We’re headed up there tomorrow to do an XC schooling and I’m pumped!

Plus I’ll be picking up my Micklem bridle tonight and am looking forward to trying it. It’s a good week in horse-land.

So, on to a fun topic: moving up a level.

There’s a lot of great articles about how to know when you’re ready to move up. In fact, Denny Emerson wrote an article on it, as did Jimmy Wofford. And there’s a few Evention TV videos on it too.  I’m sure there are similar articles out there by pros for other disciplines as well.

I love this topic because there are so many different reasons that people have for moving up (or not). I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments!!

Some of the schools of thought I’ve heard of or read are:

  • If you have to ask, that means you’re not ready.
  • Move up when you’re bored at your level.
  • You should be in the ribbons regularly at your level before moving up.
  • You should already be schooling one level above, and it should be going peachy.
  • Move up every season, unless there’s some sort of major issue.
  • Move up as soon as you know how to do the movements for that level.
  • Don’t let fear or other people hamper your competition goals – move up as soon as you can.
  • Move up when your trainer tells you to.

I’ve been asked a few times lately if I have plans to move up, which is what prompted this post. The answer is: not anytime soon. We are currently competing Beginner Novice, and I think we need a few more successful shows before I’d want to move us up to Novice. I’m in no rush. Hemie and I are having fun and still have plenty to learn at our level.

Since I can only afford to do about 3 horse trials a year, right now I foresee us competing at BN for the rest of this year, possibly into next year, before moving up to Novice. Our XC is solid and I think we could do a Novice course just fine (though I’d have to ride consciously to make the time). Stadium would be iffy – we would get through it but I’d rather have a few more double-clean rounds at BN first. And Dressage is still a major work in progress, so if I care about being competitive (which sometimes I do but typically I don’t) then it would be prudent to wait until we have a better handle on that.

The factors that are most important to me in deciding when to move up:

  • Safety
  • Confidence
  • Trainer’s opinion
Would love to know how other people decide!  Please share your approach!

16 comments on “On Moving Up

  1. I love and completely agree with your 3 factors for moving up!


  2. I've been told that you should move up a level every year. However I've also read articles about how moving up before you're ready can be detrimental. In my personal opinion, unless Fiction and I are regularly in the satin at the level we are competing at, there is no reason to move up. This year we're going to hit BN horse trials with one Novice MT to see how he does (plus the course is super easy and the jumps are on the lower end of the Novice side). But if we do very poorly this season, we may just stick with BN next season as well!


  3. I don't event but in my world, I really rely on my trainer to help push me to move up when I am ready.

    Your factors are totally good ones too :)


  4. I always go by the “when you are bored – move up”, However that didn't ring true for my last horse Archie. We were bored at PT(Novice) but he was not controllable enough to go Training. In the end, he wasn't ever going to be rideable enough to upgrade. Now I go by:

    – Is the level you are currently at hard at all? Or do you feel it's a breeze.
    – Placing means nothing. Some people win after having a stop – some people are great but just not there yet in dressage.
    – How confident are you. Have you been schooling the higher level regularly without issue? Are you jumping courses at the higher level and above height regularly?
    – I think at least 3 or 4 events with NO jumping penalties (and or stops in stadium) should be required before upgrading.


  5. I'm a wimp so I usually only move up when my trainer literally pushes the jumps up and says I should jump over them at a horse show :)


  6. I like your parameters! I don't think there is ANY reason to move up until you are both ready. You are not a BNR trying to get the horse through the levels, you are clearly someone who loves her horse and wants to only have fun, educational experiences… Stay there until you are bored, or until you trainer pushes you ahead. In the meantime, you can school all the novice and training stuff you want until it's a non issue. You guys are my inspiration!


  7. Definitely in the camp of “we're ammies and it has to be fun”. Courage could be sooooo much further along if I had him in training or pushed harder or anything, but I'm just taking my time and enjoying him. We jump what we want to and we'll move up (or show, haha) when we're ready.


  8. Who says you HAVE to move up? What if I am happy and comfortable competing at Beginner Novice forever and really have no desire to go higher? (or maybe my horse is not capable?). Even if you are winning all the time in a certain division, it does not mean you should or have to move up. My rule is show where you are happy and comfortable and safe. If you wish to move up, do so, but don't let yourself and anyone pressure you.


  9. Agree with all of the above. That said I think pinning and going double clear atleast for XC should be mandatory. I am not sold on eventing but wouldn't move hue up until we are clear XC. People that get loads if jump penalties and the move the horse up and get more jump penalties frustrate me. If your horse is stopping at BN why would he jump at N?? (Not you but the general you) I don't see myself moving up the levels in eventing so maybe I'll be the BN champion of the world ;)


  10. Thank you =}


  11. The only problem with the being-in-the-satin criteria is that it depends so much on other people (ie, the competition). You could be doing the best you will ever do at BN and genuinely be ready for Novice, but you might not get ribbons if a bunch of other riders are simply better scorers.


  12. This is why we pay them the big bucks ;]


  13. =) Thank you!! I agree completely.


  14. I'm with you. There's no rush. The journey IS the destination.


  15. Good point. Every rider and horse has their cap level, and for some that is BN. It is a rare horse that physically can't do Novice level, so people who compete at BN forever (and there's a number of them here in my area) do it mostly because of rider preference. They tend to sweep up the ribbons at the show.


  16. I think double-clear XC is a great criteria, especially on the speed. Fluke jump issues happen (though they should be just that – flukes), but if you can't go the correct pace, why move up where the speed is even faster?


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