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How Did You Do This Show Season?

For me the close of summer heralds an end to a busy coaching season in the North East and like most clinicians the Fall months will keep me extra busy as riders recover from their exhibitions in the arena and come back to full schooling mode. 

A select few students have qualified for the National championships, others are wrapping up their season at Dressage at Devon. For the majority of competitors the expenses of the show season hang heavily on the annual budget but the barn is bright with ribbons of a variety of colors demonstrating to all their sojourn into the world of the sport of dressage.

If the show season did not go as well as you had hoped this is a great time to reflect and take stock of a few key ingredients that you may have been missing in your quest for success.

Here is a list of thoughts to consider before you trot down the center line again.

  • Did I prepare my horse properly for the task I set? Most importantly was he 100 % sound? Was he 100% fit and prepared for the tests I chose? If you started out well and did too many events he may have become tired. If you started out badly and improved then perhaps he just needed more time/education to get used to the demands of either the change of venue or the demands of the test(s). If things went from bad to worse then evidently he was totally unprepared or he was not sound and happy to begin on your quest at all. If you are not sure about your horse's soundness then obviously have a vet evaluate him. If you are not sure about his education, consult a knowledgeable and supportive trainer.  
  •  Did I prepare myself properly? Was I mentally prepared? Hopefully you had learned your tests inside and out, because a showground is no place to learn them unless you are extremely talented and experienced. Was my mental state at the show helpful to my horse? Was I nervous? Nerves usually emanate from a lack of confidence. If you are especially nervous then perhaps you asked too much of yourself ( or your horse) and the best way to resolve this is to take a step down the levels and accomplish 65% or more on that level. If this season was your first at recognized events and it didn't work out well then do more schooling shows between now and next season. Was I physically fit? A rider is an athlete and while we cannot all be a svelte build for dressage and we come in all shapes and sizes, we can still be sure we are fit enough and have a good independent seat to do the task. Otherwise we are a true burden to our horse in his efforts.
  • Did I build my horse and my confidence in a logical manner? Let's say you had two bad shows in a row. Did you pause, pull a few shows from the to calendar and work at home schooling up for the level you were attempting? It is important to always be schooling your horse with full confidence in his and your ability to task every movement at the level ABOVE that which you are showing to ensure a good outcome. Shows add a lot of pressure because of the amount of variables involved. Footing, stabling and neighbors, weather, trailering, change of routine, lack of grazing etc.. The things you can assure you must assure, and being properly trained for the job is a major component. 
However the show season went give yourself a pat on the back because you did get out there and do it. Action is very important and be grateful for the good comments you achieved. Look at the judge's criticisms (which hopefully were positively constructed with advice) with an objective eye. Look for a pattern of similar comments and work first on those issues this Fall season. Read books, view DVDs and educate yourself in any area in which you fall short. There are lots of wonderful resources out there that are quite inexpensive.
If you are headed to Florida for the winter then be sure the funds you will spend showing there are worth it by working smartly and well as working hard to improve faults you see in your preparation from reading the tips above.

There is no benefit in blindly cantering on in the same pattern as you have been going if things are not improving. Change your actions to gain a different result. Change your mindset and change the outcome. This is a great opportunity to cash in from the money you spent out competing but gaining valuable information by close examination of your test comments and scores. If you have photos of videos of your exploits in the arena then watch them with a critical but kind and understanding eye. Consult a trainer if you need direction. And remember, we learn the most from our mistakes, not from the things that go perfectly. It is from our mistakes we truly develop. 

Don't be hard on yourself. Just work smarter!



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