Ten Easy Steps for Organising a NITE (North Island Teams Event) Team
by Kristine Potter
If you have riders in your club that have already been to NITE then they are the first people to approach for advise and help, and you probably need to read no further. However if you are first timers and are thinking that it is much too daunting a task to organise on your own, here are some tips which will help you.
At all times the objective of this Teams Event is to promote a friendly, competitive atmosphere centred around the team effort, encouraging confidence and horsemanship and riding skills for all.
Since its inception in 1988, NITE has been run annually over the first weekend in January, hosted by a different club each year. This year the Franklin Adult Riding Group (FARG) has volunteered to run this event at the Taupo Equestrian Centre from Sat the 5th to Sunday the 6th of January 2002. Taupo has traditionally been a popular venue for NITE because of its facilities and geographic location, which makes it easier for club from all over the North Island to attend.
Teams consist of 4 to 6 riders who compete in the four phases over the weekend. Each phase must be completed by four riders from each team from the pool of up to six riders per team. The four phases in 2002 are: Riding Club Mount (Obstacle Course), Quadrille (Themed dressage to music), Teams Cross-Country, Show Jumping (Gamblers Stakes).
- Advertise for riders to form a team in your local club newsletter and arrange a meeting or coffee evening for anyone interested. Six riders are the maximum for a team, however, it is always a good idea to have a couple of extras on the back burner as horses can go lame etc and a fill in may be needed at some point. Once the team (or two teams) is decided and if possible a ground person /coach is roped in to help, then you can start thinking about a theme for the quadrille.
- Ensure that team riders are fully paid members of your club for the current season, and that they and your club are affiliated to the NZRC (New Zealand Riding Club), otherwise you do not qualify to participate at NITE. Your club secretary will help you with this.
- Your secretary should have a copy of the rules (otherwise contact the NZRC). The blue section covers NITE, and it really pays to read up on each phase thoroughly to ensure that both riders and gear are in line with requirements. Ideally a photocopy of these rules should be given to each team member to ensure nothing is missed and everyone is clear on the rules.
- Once a quadrille theme has been decided upon with music (6 minute maximum), and outfits, then the movements can be drawn up on paper or if your prefer, on the ground mounted. Costumes need not be expensive, they can be soured from the local op shop, produced from cut-price products, or sewn yourselves. You are only limited by your imagination. This is the fun part - don't forget outfits can extend to your horses. The movements to be carried out will depend on the level of your team, for first timers keep if fairly simple, it is far better to have an easier movement performed well than attempting a complicated movement poorly.
- Organise a time and place for practices with a flat area of 20m by 60m. Try if possible to vary the venue occasionally, this gives the horses and riders a chance to work in unfamiliar places. This is where your "person on the ground" is really helpful. They are able to watch all four horses working, and can help ensure that your lines are straight and your turns are made in unison. They are also handy for turning music on and off (from a car if nothing else is available), and making a cuppa afterwards.
- The Obstacle Course (also called the games) is nothing particularly daunting but points are easily gained and lost, so get your team members to practice picking things up off drums, opening and closing gates and horses used to stepping over things. Also practice carrying a cup, raincoat and bucket - you never know what you will be asked to do. This is done in your Riding club uniform (along with the jumping phases) but make sure you have a set for each rider with your club saddle blanket and the NZRC pin.
- The X-country phase is run as a team of four, following one behind the other at a regular distance. This tends to make the horses keen so practice at a steady pace over one or two jumps and work out which horse is best suited to lead (a "non-stopper") and which horses will be OK at the rear ("plodders"). This will take a bit of juggling but team support and safety is the most important thing both at practice and on the day. There will be a choice of heights at each jump element to cater for all abilities.
- The show jumping phase involves four horses but competing one at a time. Each rider will get to choose their course so picking jumps that do not push riders past their limit on skill or confidence is important. Practice helps and some coaching a week before the event can be a real confidence boost.
- Keep an eye on the NITE newsletter to make sure your entries are into FARG (Franklin Adult Ride Group) before the due date. Entry fees for 2002 are $100.00 per team and you will also need to pay for camping fees, food etc. Fundraising for the team costs (entry fees, costumes etc) is a good way to get your Riding Group involved in the event. Holding a ribbon day, derby day, raffle, trivial pursuit night etc are just some ideas to raise money.
- The final step is to drive down, set up camp, compete and enjoy the company! Most NITE venues will have pens and one paddock per team. Be prepared for a shortage of grass; bring enough hard feed and hay to sustain your trusty steeds for the weekend. An equine first aid kit is good to have on board - a vet will also be on call for those unseen emergencies. It is a good idea to have the horses freshly shod however there will also be a farrier on call for any emergencies. A central large tent or canopy with tables and chairs so your club can have a "meal/party" space is a great idea if you can mange it. If you can bribe some of your friends, family, club members to come down and support you, it is always great to have extra feet on the ground to help with grooming, mucking out, cooking, filling water buckets, calming nervous riders etc. If your club supporters share the work and the fun then you will have a great weekend!!