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set yourself up for dressage test success – this year and every year!
Bear with me, because step number one can take a bit of extra thought, but once you get that sketched out, you can apply #2 and #3 in your next dressage test focused rides!
1. have a plan and work the plan
For business and life, I like to look at the big picture and then narrow my focus.
Have you spent time seriously looking at your long-term dressage training goals? Then, writing down your steps to achieve those goals?
I can’t recommend this process enough (in life and sport!)
Just like you’d focus on any other life goal and set milestones, do that for not just this year’s dressage test success but for your long term progress toward your lifelong dressage goals.
Spoiler alert: It’s a great gift for yourself or your favorite dressage rider at the holidays or before show season!
Guess what? There’s a lot you can do with a plain old notebook, too! Use what you’ve got, especially when the budget is tight. Here are your core parts:
- Write your goals
- Create dated action plans (to reach your goals)
- Put specific tasks in your calendar based on your action plan.
2. revisit your plan
Look at what you’ve written down, and ask yourself:
- Is this realistic?
- Do I have the tools?
Realistic? Double check that the schedule you set is possible, with your other time and life commitments. Will you prioritize dressage tests preparation over other activities this year?
If you’ve set a goal to move beyond your current dressage test level by the end of the show season, you’ll need the time to put in the work – in the saddle and in your head!
Tools? This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the fanciest tack and turnout, but it does mean that you need to look at what you have and know what you are missing.
Do you have an accurately marked standard size arena to ride in regularly? (Or a small arena, if that is the size you will show in!)
If not, it really can be as simple as making yourself a plan – whether that is adding make-shift markers to your daily riding ring or trailer-ing to a nearby arena once a month. Set yourself up for success in accurately preparing yourself to ride 10, 15 or 20m circles and other figures.
Or, If you want to rock an amazing first level freestyle ride this year, do you already have your first level foundation built? Do you understand all the elements of a competitive freestyle?
The USDF website is an amazing resource full of free tools for you to improve your dressage test riding!
3. get back to dressage test basics
Spend your time knowing your dressage test figures, how these shapes are arranged in your level’s dressage tests, and how YOU can best ride these figures on YOUR horse.
It is truly that simple, boring and basic… and hard! Let me break it down a little.
Know Your Dressage Test Figures
I’ve spoken to FEI trainer Ruth Hogan-Poulsen about this at length (and been at the receiving end of plenty of geometry lessons, too!) I know things look different from horseback, so listen to your trainer on this one, for sure!
Don’t lose points by riding each 15 meter circle as a 20 meter circle (or vice versa.)
Know Your Dressage Test
Once you list the required figures for your competition level, take note of where they are in the arena.
Then, focus on riding the figures at those letter markers in the standard or small arena.
Don’t make it harder on yourself.
If you need to ride a 15 meter circle at V, then memorize the tangent lines and shape of the circle for that part of the arena specifically!
And, memorize your test. Even if you have a caller.
Know Yourself and Your Horse
And, finally… Know yourself and your horse.
Have you been taking notes after your riding lessons? Go back over your notes, what are your habits that you keep repeating? They’ll probably sneak back in, especially in the show ring (mine always did!!)
Assume that some of your (and your horse’s) nervous habits will creep back in, and prepare to manage them. Visualize the half-halt before going into the corner, see yourself sinking your seat bones down during the halt
Spending the time visualizing the test and knowing the movements and transitions will pay dividends on your final score.
What’s next for your dressage test?
No, we can’t manage everything, but these steps can make an impact on not just your dressage test riding, but also in your overall training progress.
So, yes please, order my book or just grab a notebook and re-purpose it for your riding goals!
I worked hard with Ruth to pull together our 2019 Dressage Rider’s Journal so that you have one spot to turn for all these planning tasks. And, I can’t wait to publish the improved and expanded 2020 edition!