For many the start of the competition season is imminent. The winter break is a good opportunity to consolidate the basics and to work on individual challenges. But what’s the best way to train if the first competition is imminent?
“Basically not much changes in the work on the basics,” emphasises Benjamin. “I’m working on getting the horse balanced and to carry weight behind, so that as a rider I can give with the hand. I practically do this until I go down the centre line.” It’s the wrong approach, when you prepare for a competition, to just practise movements and forget about suppleness and throughness. The better the fine tuning and communication between horse and rider, the quicker and softer you can react to little misunderstandings in order to avoid mistakes. And the quicker you can regain your composure after a little blip so you don’t completely lose focus.
The training with your horse for a competition
Besides the work on the basics Benjamin focuses on the test. He has a look at what the test requires and practises parts and sequences of it.
This can be for example just the canter or just some movements. Another good option: To ride a test or to actually simulate the competition with everything – plaiting the mane, wearing white breeches, white saddlecloth, warming up in the warm-up area and then riding the test in the “dressage arena”.
“During the training when things go wrong., I have to ask myself- why is that so?”, explains Benjamin. If I have a problem with one movement or a sequence of movements, the solution is usually to go back a step and make it easier for the horse again. If there’s for example a problem with the sequence changes, I’d focus on doing just one change again. In most cases a problem with the changes is a suppleness problem. Or if I lose the fluency in the shoulder-in and the horse struggles with the rhythm, I go back to the shoulder-fore. If it’s difficult in the trot half-pass to keep the positioning and fluency along the line, I practice acceptance of the leg aids in walk again and then go back to trot.
Visualization as the perfect preparation for riders
Besides the training with the horse it’s also important to prepare mentally for the show. Mental preparation means to simulate the test in your head. To actually ride the whole test in your head, step by step. Every movement, every corner, every turn. The subconscious will store this as real. “With this mental preparation I’ve often felt in a test at a competition as if I’ve experienced this situation before- which gave me immense security. This is an important part of the training for competitions. It is however important to stay flexible and eventually adapt to the actual circumstances. That is the art of riding. You can keep being an artist.
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