Are you looking to improve your dressage scores this season and channel your inner Charlotte Dujardin? In this blog, the Equestrian PR team speak to top professional dressage riders’ courtesy of our clients to ensure that you and your horse are in winning form.
Practice really does make perfect as we find out from one leading dressage rider. Courtesy of her sponsors, Golly Galoshes and Renwick & Sons, Natasha Baker, MBE & Gold Medallist Paralympic Dressage Rider shares her tips for top test riding:
“First impressions are crucial, so even while you are trotting around the arena waiting for the bell to go, you need to be aware that the judge may be watching in the corner of your eye. You should have completed your warm-up by the time you are riding around the test arena, but don’t forget to use this time to show your horse any spooky flower pots or work on transitions to keep him together and focused on you.
I practice lots of centre lines at home, but what I don’t do is practice halting at the same place when training them. This just teaches the horse to start anticipating for himself when you are going to stop and will just make it harder for you to ride it smoothly and in rhythm. Of course, you want your horse listening to you, but not making decisions for himself!”
“When I ride down the centre line, I think about riding ‘up’ the centre line! You want to think of the horse up underneath your seat and carrying you forward. Subconsciously thinking like this will, in fact, lighten your seat and allow the horse to become more engaged behind, creating an excellent first impression!”
Another top professional dressage rider, Bobby Hayler has a valuable top tip for riding a great test:
“So many riders throw away marks by not riding movements correctly and to the markers. Don’t lose marks from sloppiness, ride accurately and see your scores improve. If you do make a mistake (It’s happened to all of us at some time!), then don’t dwell on it. It is only one mark, so quickly recover and focus on the next movement and riding the rest of the test.
Courtesy of her sponsors, Childéric Saddles, International dressage rider, Becky Moody believes visualisation is a valuable tool to test riding as she explains;
“Visualisation was a technique that I was introduced to back in my young rider days to help prepare for the big international shows and championships, and I still use it a lot today.
First of all, it helps you know your test inside out and back to front. I believe this is really important, and I don’t ever have tests read for me. Although I accept that sometimes it is good to have the moral support of someone calling for you, I don’t think it is good to get into the habit of it all the time. After all you can’t have a reader at any regional or national championships.
“I like to get to the shows in plenty of time so that I can go and look at the arenas. I spend time going through the test in my head in the arena in front of me, thinking about all the things I have to remember.”
It’s not just about where I am going, but also my priorities in terms of the way of going and what might distract the horse – banners on the fence, flags, flower pots, nearby arenas etc…
Once I have the arena clear in my mind I go back to the lorry, and while I am plaiting up or getting ready, I continue to go through the test several more times, thinking about both the things that may go wrong and how I want the test to look and feel. This way, by the time I go in I have already ‘ridden’ the test half a dozen times and am better prepared for what might happen.
I used to do this with my sister Hannah who knew both the horses and me so well. I would then say everything I was thinking out loud, and she would be able to add things or change my priorities if she felt I was going off track. I found this really helpful until I was more confident in what I was doing at which point I started doing it myself.
And our final gem of equestrian PR advice comes from Bobby Hayler;
” Remember, being mentally prepared for your competition is just as important as the physical training, so put time into learning the test and focusing on a positive outcome.
“Don’t let nerves ruin your enjoyment or affect your riding.”
After all; we are supposed to enjoy our time with our horses, so smile as you ride down the centre line and good luck!”
Are you struggling to get a date in the diary for your next competition outing? Dressage Anywhere is a fantastic online dressage competition portal that allows you to compete at home and have your test judged by top British Dressage Listed Judges online. Ideal for those that struggle to get horse transportation or for those who want to improve their competition riding skills at home. Our equestrian PR team are fans!
If you enjoyed this blog from our equestrian PR team, you might like to watch our video from another fantastic dressage rider, Leah Beckett. Courtesy of Aloeride, Leah talks about getting to know your new dressage horse on our exciting YouTube channel. Why not also give us a follow? To ensure you don’t miss out on our latest video updates? Watch Leah’s video on Getting To Know A New Horse on our YouTube channel now!
Image credit: Equetech www.equetech.com