Getting ready for a competition can seem tedious, however, taking the time to prepare in the right way will reduce stress at the show and leave both horse and rider feeling confident to compete.
These suggestions are designed to build your confidence in preparation for the show ring.
1. Practice the Test at Home
Run through the test to find the weaknesses. This makes it easy to address the problem areas. When you ride through the test, you not only get comfortable with the pattern, but you also have an opportunity to educate the horse on the ins and outs of each movement. To do so, ride some sequences from the test, such as a shoulder-in, to a 10-meter circle. Then after practicing and addressing the weaknesses, ride through the entire test again.
It is important that the horse feels comfortable with the format as well as the rider – keeping that in mind when selecting what test to show is an aspect that will contribute to success. Schooling one level above what you will be showing can also ensure confidence in the competition arena.
The week of the show should be about building final confidence, not fixing training problems.
2. Practice the Test Out of the Saddle
Visualize the ideal test every day for at least a week (but ideally more) before the competition. Confidence is gained by knowing the pattern. Not only that, if you mentally ride through the preparation for each movement, it will make it easier while riding the test. Set aside a time, say before bed, to mentally ride the pattern. Then think about riding the small details, like riding deep into a corner or riding a clear transition after an extended gait. Even thinking about riding forward on the short sides or relaxing the rein after a half-halt will make it easier when you get back in the saddle.
3. Make a Packing Checklist
Nothing is more stressful than forgetting something important and not realizing until the last minute. Avoid finding out your white gloves are at home minutes before getting on for your test. Having a checklist will leave one less thing to be nervous about.
4. Don’t Train at the Show
Keep your horse mentally and physically fresh by not “cramming” schooling in before the competition day. Have a warm-up plan in mind when you go to the arena before your test. A simple format that the horse is confident in works best. The week of the show should be about building final confidence, not fixing training problems. Resume training after the show and ensure that your horse is not sore by overriding the week of the show or in the warm up. Again, showing a level below what is being schooled at home will avoid having to school issues at the competition. Always remember, success is made at home.
5. Take Time to Get Ready
Plan the amount of time you need to get ready. Make sure you know how long it will take to groom and tack your horse. Make sure he is braided in advance and have a plan for how much warm up time he will need. Then, ensure there is enough time for you to get dressed in show clothes and be prepared. Finally, make time to take a moment to relax and visualize the test again before getting on. Confidence comes in preparation!