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How to Manage at a Dressage Competition on Your Own

How to Manage at a Competition on Your Own How To Dressage


Many people don’t have the luxury of the assistance of an entourage of grooms and supporters when they go to a dressage competition.

Competing can be nerve-wracking enough, but when you’re flying solo, it can be doubly stressful.

So, what steps can you take to make your day’s competing go smoothly and successfully?

Preparation is the key

The old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” is certainly true when going to competitions on your own.

With just one pair of hands to do every job on the day, it’s essential that you’re well organized.

Event day checklist

It can be helpful to put together a checklist that you can use to prepare for competitions.

Break down the list into sections as follows:

  1. Items you’ll need in an emergency, for example, a fully charged mobile phone, cash, and the number of your breakdown recovery company.
  2. Every item of tack you’ll need, including a saddle cloth, girth, and brushing boots if you use them.
  3. Your own kit, including your hat, gloves, whip, and boots.
  4. Things for your horse’s comfort, including full haynets, water, a small feed just in case you’re delayed coming home, and your horse’s first aid and grooming kits.
  5. Other essentials including, a copy of the dressage test, drinks, and snacks if there’s no catering on offer at the venue.

The day before the competition, go through your checklist and load what you can onto your horsebox or trailer.

Make sure all your tack is clean and your kit is clean and ready.

Fill up with diesel or petrol so that you won’t have to make a stop en route to the competition, and take your lorry around the block if you’ve not used it recently; the last thing you need on the day is to find that it won’t start!

If you’ve never been to the venue before, make sure you know how to get there and set your satnav if you have one.  Double check the AA website to make sure that there aren’t any road closures that will affect your route, and put the organizer’s contact number into your phone in case you do get lost or delayed.

On the day

Have a quick look over your checklist to make sure that you’ve got everything packed and ready to go.

If your horse can be tricky to load, allow extra time and recruit a helper at the yard if you can.

Allow plenty of time for your journey so that you arrive at the competition venue in good time.  Try to find a parking space that gives you plenty of room to maneuver your vehicle if you’re not used to driving it yourself.  If possible park so that you can drive out forwards in case there’s no-one around to direct you out at the end of the day.

Once you’ve settled your horse with a haynet, find the secretary’s desk and declare your intention to compete.

If you think you might forget your test, now’s the time to inquire about having it called for you; many venues will find you a test caller in exchange for a small donation to their preferred charity box.

If necessary, ask your caller to take your horse’s brushing boots off before you enter the arena.  When you’re on your own, it’s easy to forget this job, and the last thing you want is to lose six marks because your horse is still wearing his boots when you come down the center line!

When you’re on your own, it’s usually best to tack your horse up before you get changed so that you don’t get covered in slobber and muck before you even get on!  Horsey people are usually very helpful and there’s bound to be someone who will keep an eye on your mount for you while you get ready.

If you usually use a mounting block to get on, don’t assume there will be one at the venue; buy your own and keep it in your lorry.  If you think your horse might fidget, don’t be afraid to ask someone to hold him and your stirrup for you while you mount.  In the absence of any assistance, try to stand your horse against a fence and facing into a corner so that he can’t disappear or start wriggling while you’re half-way on!

Before you mount up, close the lorry ramp, place all your valuables out of sight in the cab, and lock it.  Unfortunately, sneak thieves are common at some venues so it’s wise not to be complacent.

Before you set off for home, check around the lorry to make sure that you’ve not left anything outside; it’s all too easy to drive off having left your whip on the floor, especially if the car park is dark by the time you leave.

In conclusion

The key to enjoying a stress-free day out at a competition on your own is to prepare as thoroughly as you can beforehand and never be afraid to ask other horsey folks for a helping hand at the venue on the day.

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