How to Prepare for a Competition
Whether you are competing at a venue or preparing for a video dressage competition, a certain amount of preparation has to happen before you ride down the centre line with that all important smile on your face.
But how do you get your and your horse primed for action?
Read on for some helpful tips on how to prepare for a dressage test.
The week before
Preparation for your test begins at least a week before the actual date of the competition.
Book a lesson with your trainer so that you can run through the test with them. If possible, have the ‘dummy run’ videoed from the judge’s position at ‘C’, so that you can critically appraise your performance. This will give you a good idea of what areas you need to work on to improve your scores.
In the days before your test, don’t over-practice. This can make some horses anticipate some of the movements, and that will lose you marks on the day.
Similarly, if there’s a particular movement in the test that’s not going so well, don’t get too hung up on trying to perfect it. You can’t fix a problem overnight, and you could just sour your horse with endless schooling.
Rather than spending too much time working, keep your horse fresh by varying his exercise routine. If your horse enjoys hacking, take him out for a relaxing ride to keep his muscles loose. Perhaps lunge instead of schooling on one day, or pop a few small rails if your horse likes jumping.
The day before
The day prior to riding the test, everything should be ready.
It can be helpful to make a list of everything you need to do and of all the items you need to take with you if you’re travelling to a show.
Clean your tack, tidy up your horse, and make sure that your own riding attire is clean. If you’re travelling to an event, pack your lorry and fill-up with diesel so that you’re not rushing around on the morning of the show.
The night before your test, a useful technique is to practice visualising yourself riding through every movement. Picture the arena and see yourself riding every single movement perfectly. Throughout the whole experience, you’re smiling, the judge is smiling … even the horse is smiling! This is a strategy used by many professional athletes and is extremely effective.
If you don’t have someone to call the test for you, make sure you know it! Some people learn best by tracing the test pattern out on a sheet of paper, while others like to walk the test out on their living room rug! You’ll quickly discover your own favourite way of memorising tests.
Work out your timings for the day and write them down. For example:
- Plaiting-up and grooming – 45 minutes
- Loading – 15 minutes
- Drive to the venue – 1hour
- Allow 20 minutes from the time you arrive at the venue to declare and get your bearings
- Tack-up, get changed – 20 minutes
- Work-in – 30 minutes
- Ride down centre line … smiling!
Related Read: How Long to Warm up for Before a Dressage Test
When it comes to competing successfully, preparation is the key, and as you become more experienced, you’ll soon fall into a tried and tested pre-competition routine.
The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel, and that will be reflected in your riding.
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