Thursday 25th of February 2021

Top tips for competing at BE80 (T) level

With the 2016 British Eventing season getting underway in just two weeks time (March 5-6), Bicton Arena’s manager Helen West, who is a BE course designer and events professionally, shares her tips for eventing at the grassroots level. First up is BE80 (T).

Bicton BE dressage

© Malcolm Snelgrove

At BE80(T) the fences are 80cms high and there’s a BE accredited coach on hand to help you.

The aim of competing in BE8O (T) classes, which are open to members and non-members, who compete on a day ticket, of British Eventing, the sport’s governing body, is for the horse and rider to compete, have a great day and come away having had a positive experience and wanting to do it again.


A misconception

The T can be misleading. Some people think it is a training class so that you can come and have a go, jump a fence, perhaps refuse, and then carry on at your own pace to the next obstacle. The training element actually means that there is a trainer who is available to walk the course with you and give invaluable advice about how to ride it. Do take this up and don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions.


Before competing at BE80 you will ideally have done some hunter trials and unaffiliated one day events and you’ll be confident cantering up and down hill. You will be well prepared in the showjumping phase, and able to adequately perform a BE90 dressage test.

It isn’t advisable to go along with the attitude that you will see what happens. Although the courses are flowing, the fences can be substantial and there will be a variety that will include ditches, a run in and out of water and a combination. Also, an 80cms fence could have 10cms of brush on top.

I had a treble combination on my BE80 course at Bicton Arena with four strides in between each element. It was a castle and two cannons on a curving line and it jumped beautifully.

Before your event, familiarize yourself with the rule book. It will tell you the exact dimensions of the fences you can expect to jump. Do treat the rule book as your bible so that you know everything you can.

On arrival

Allow plenty of time when you get to the event. There is nothing worse than being stressed as you are late and in a rush. Your horse will pick up on it and become tense. Eventing is supposed to be fun and if you are well prepared you will get so much more out of your day.

You’ll need to get your bearings when you get to the event and find out where everything is. Find the dressage and showjumping arenas, the cross county start and the secretary’s tent so that you pick up your number.  Allow an hour to walk the course. Depending on your times, you might have time to do this after your dressage test.

At BE80 level, I’d advise watching a few horses go round both the cross country and the showjumping..

Warming up

Allow 30 minutes to warm up before the dressage, depending on your horse. If your dressage test is at 11am, I’d get there by 9am, which will allow you time to walk the course, collect your number and warm up. How long you warm up for showjumping will depend upon your horse, but between ten and 20 minutes should be fine as you will already have warmed up for the dressage.

Allow 15 minutes to warm up for the cross country – there’s nothing worse than getting to the start too soon as your horse will go off the boil. When the starter gets to ten seconds approach the start box.

Riding across country

I find that a lot of people riding at BE80 level aren’t committed enough at the beginning of the course.

You need to ride those first three fences with conviction and if you do, you’ll get into a lovely rhythm and are more likely to have a confidnce-giving round.

At our April event I watched a lot of riders meander to the first fence and stop! Make sure you understand what a black flag means. If a fence has a black flag, there will be an alternative option, but it will be time consuming.


You will need a PAS015 hat and a Level 3 body protector. Again, do read the rule book, including passport regulations. You’ll be kicking yourself if you made all the preparation to compete and you don’t get a run.

Moving up to the next level

Whether you are ready to move up a level depends upon you, your horse and your experience. If you had a super round that felt easy with no question marks you are are ready for the next level. You want to feel almost cocky.

If you think you had to work hard across country, and there were a few sticky moments, you need to consolidate. There is no great hurry.

I see a lot of young horses that are pushed up through the levels but you will come unstuck if the basics aren’t established. You must meet the questions at the lower levels and understand them.


© Malcolm Snelgrove

© Malcolm Snelgrove

And finally…

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have a great day!

By Helen West

Editor’s Note: If you competed at a BE80 (T) class in 2015, we would love to hear how you got on.

Share your experiences in our Visitors Book that is coming soon in our exciting new Eventing Guide. Help other competitors who may be starting out find out more about what to expect. Here’s the link to get involved. Click here

COMING SOON: Helen shares her top tips for competing at BE90

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