Yesterday the sun was bright, the sky was clear. It was the perfect day for a dressage competition.
Those of you who have read a few of my stories will likely know that I like to look for the lessons in things. Yesterday’s dressage competition was no different. So here are my learnings.
1. I absolutely need to ride through my tests multiple times before I arrive at the competition. I guess this is something that I have known I should be doing for quite a while, but it’s only this past week that I’ve really understood the power of it.
I’ll put my hand up and admit that I am not great at riding through my tests prior to competitions. Why? It’s not because I am worried about Nonie anticipating. It’s more that I don’t like riding through tests. Compared to training it makes me feel uncomfortable. Movements come at you more quickly and you have less time to fix your horses way of going in between. But obviously this is exactly why you should ride tests more often.
By day four of riding through a test each day I realise that while the trot work was happening fairly well, in the canter work I was holding my breathe and becoming a passive rider. I was just steering Nonie through the movements without really riding her. Having become awareness of the problem I was then able to put some strategies in place to improve.
Check out this great video from Dressage Plus about riding through your tests.
2. Comfortable gear is paramount. Have you ever ridden in a pair of top boots half a size too small? You can zip them up carefully but after 5 minutes you can’t feel your feet and you can feel the blood struggling to get below the level of your calves. Clearly this is not an ideal situation for riding.
That being said make sure you put your show gear on a month or so before the start of the competition season and make any necessary adjustments.
3. Know how your nerves manifest and have a toolbox full of strategies to help you manage your nerves. Having had a nine month break from competing ‘in real life’ (versus online) I suspected that my nerves may resurface. And they did!
For me one really common way that nerves show up is through negative self talk. ‘Your not good enough to be riding medium, who are you kidding’. The other way is through tension in my position. But fortunately I was able to draw on the tools I have learnt previously with Danielle from Dressage Plus to prevent these from taking over.
It was really exciting to be back out in the ring and for the day to have been a success!