Two weekends ago Nonie and I danced down the centreline of our first ever medium dressage tests. In the week leading up to this competition my body was filled with a maelstrom of emotions. Excitement, nerves and pride. While we didn’t make take the dressage world by storm, it was a huge accomplishment personally and we certainly learnt a few lessons along the way.
My nerves are going to be high when I first ride at a new level.
When you move up a level, particularly when it is something that you have not done before, it is to be expected that your nerves will be a little higher than normal. For me, this was something I noticed in the lead up to my first elementary start about a year and a half ago and it happened again in the lead up to this competition. However, I was able to use the skills I have learnt from working with my mindset coach, Danielle Pooles (Dressage Plus) to understand what these nerves meant and how to manage them in order to maintain focus and enjoy the weekend!
You don’t have to ride a perfect test to be proud of what you have done.
Our tests were far from perfect. In fact we scored some of the lowest percentages we ever have. Over the course of the two tests we missed four out of six of the flying changes. The half pass didn’t have enough wrap and ended up being more of a straight diagonal line than a true half pass. But we all have to start somewhere and there are a few things that I was really proud of in those tests. For instance, we scored an 8 for our extended walk, the walk pirouettes have improved vastly and I achieved one of my mini goals, to ride more boldly in the medium canter.
There is a skill in being able to continue on when a movement doesn’t go to plan.
As already mentioned most of the flying changes didn’t happen in the test. One which we did pull off was quite spectacular, after half passing from the centreline back to the long side I straightened Nonie and asked for the change. I must have been a bit over excited in my spur use and up into the air Nonie went, followed by the change. My mum, ever the professional, was attempting to stifle her laughs as she called the next movement. I managed to maintain my focus and moved along. It wasn’t until mum pointed out what I had done that I realised what a huge achievement this was. This is undoubtedly a testament to the work that I have done with Danielle. It has enabled me to focus and remain in the moment with my horse.
Test riding is a skill unto itself.
If you’ve ever set foot in a competition arena then you know that test riding is a vastly different to training. Movements come up much faster than they do when training. You have to be on the ball and have your horse tuned in to you.
When you can compete frequently you have the opportunity to hone your ring craft and the skill of test riding. Living in a rural area and usually travelling four or more hours to a competition means that I do not have the luxury of doing this frequently. This is just one of the reasons I am super excited about the opportunity to work with Equimind. Equimind is a new online competition (with dressage and showing competitions among other disciplines). How does it work? You film yourself riding a specified test and then get a score and feedback! You can read about my first experience competing with Equimind here.
It’s important to remember that for many of us, we train so that we can compete. Competing is like the ultimate litmus test of our training. It highlights our strengths and reveals areas that require further development. There are few feelings which compare to making that final salute and knowing that you nailed your test. But even on the days when we don’t score as well as we would have hoped there are things we can learn.
So for now it’s back to the arena to train.
Photo’s by: Jordan Wicks Photography