How To Prepare Your Horse For Your First Competition - MirrorMePR
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Whether you have a new partnership with an older horse or you have a youngster you are planning to compete, our Equine Marketing Team shares their top tips for a positive first competition outing.


Plan Ahead

Planning ahead for your first outing is imperative. Having a competition month or date in mind is great for your long term plan but be prepared to be flexible. Horses aren’t machines so it could be that you may need to push your first competition date back if things aren’t going to plan. Set yourself a ‘countdown to competition’ schedule of training, but again listen to your horse. If he or she is struggling with the change or increase in work, then take a step back and give your horse more time to become confident and physically stronger. 


Look for venues that have quieter warm-up’s, open and inviting arenas with decent manège surfaces and a welcoming show secretary. Ensure that your vaccinations are up to date and your Saddle Checks, dentist and physio appointments are all planned in advance. 


Have a dabble in some Online Dressage. This gives you the opportunity to be judged by a British Dressage Judge in the familiar surroundings of home. A great way to get used to test riding before your first outing.


Build A Strong Partnership

Great horsemen and women will always say that competitions are won at home, not in the ring: This is so true. Developing a Strong Bond with your horse in the early days will strengthen your long term partnership tenfold. Spending time Grooming Your Horse and working him on the ground as well as riding will enable you to get to know your horse. 


A strong partnership built at home will still be there in an unpredictable competition environment.


That’s Familiar

If you have a new competition saddle cloth or a different piece of tack that you would like to ride at your first competition in, make sure that you ride at home in it. New saddle pads that change the fit of the saddle and any slight changes might be amplified in a competition environment. Also, check your tack regularly and ensure any fraying stitching or weaknesses are repaired or replaced.


Two’s Company

If you can rally up some support by inviting a family member or friend along for your first outing, this will give you an extra pair of hands if your horse is a little excited and you need some assistance. Having a supportive helper/groom will also help soothe any competition nerves you might have. Some riders prefer to take their horses out with another horse from their yard. This arrangement can work well for horses that do not have separation anxiety, but if this is your horse’s first outing, you might want to avoid this scenario until you know your horse better further down the line.


Be Realistic

Be realistic in your expectations of the day and your horse’s performance at this first competition. Excitement, nerves, even weather conditions can all play a part in how your horse performs. Try and see your first and those early subsequent competition days as training shows. Whether you are competing in dressage, eventing or showing, take the same mental approach. Your Dressage Scores might not be impressive but look to the bigger picture.


Do Your Homework

Suppose your first competition outing doesn’t go to plan. Review what went wrong and why. Did you learn anything about the experience? What can you do to minimise the chances of it happening again? What ground, in hand and under saddle work can you practice at home to help improve your future outings? 


Whether you own an established horse or a young horse, your first outing will always be a tentative moment for both of you. Try and enjoy the occasion and experience and see it as a milestone for your future together.


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