Preparing for the show season may not be as easy as it looks. There are many aspects that go into getting to the show ring, and even more that need to be done before you even set your first trailer tires onto the road.
6. Set your end-of-the-season goals. What can you realistically expect to achieve by the championships? Break each goal down into a series of mini-steps that work you back to where you and your horse are now. Start at the beginning but set a timeline that enables you to achieve those long-term goals about a month before your championships.
5. Build momentum. Setting a routine is an essential component to showing. You need to develop momentum in everything from knowing what equipment you need to take with you for the show, to establishing habits for packing all the extras that you will need once you are off-property.
4. Take your horse on a field trip. Just like people, horses need time to develop their routines. Although your horse may have loaded perfectly by the end of last show season, taking him on a trip to another friendly and low-key facility will enable him to get into his groove. He can get the feel for unloading in a strange place and performing immediately after arrival. Have a blast during the field trip and you will help develop a positive attitude that will transfer to the show ring once the pressure is on. Take more than one trip if necessary. Your horse will tell you when he has found his routine.
3. Practice your show requirements. If you are showing in dressage, know those tests inside out and backward! If you are going for a hunter/jumper round, practice the common courses you will likely see in the show ring. Practice the patterns for western performance, and break down the barrel runs into mini-components that require the horse to go through the motions of show day. If you compete in competitive trail, take your horse away to a friendly trail system and ride half the distance of your event at competition speed. Try to "win your ribbons" at home before you even leave your own sand.
2. Pack a good attitude. Know that you and your horse are going to do your best on the given day under the given circumstances. Set your reasonable goals for the day and try to achieve them. Ribbons are the icing on the cake, but I guarantee that "if you build it", the ribbons will come! However, if everything falls apart, don't despair! Just go home, regroup, and get back on the horse for another day. It happens to all of us!
1. Do it all again! It is true that it takes several shows for you and your horse to get accustomed to all the routines and variations in your day. Showing in the morning will feel very different from performing in the afternoon or at the end of the day. Different locations will offer differing amenities and both you and your horse need to experience and adapt to those changes. There is no replacement for experience, and with practice, your day will flow smoothly and effortlessly.
So get out there and start ramping it up for your show season! Is there anything you do differently from the list above? Let us know in the comments below!
And just to get you into the "groove" (keep an eye out for the wiggles!), enjoy dressage at its funniest with Brent Jensen and Liberty Light, during Wellington's Dressage Under The Stars:
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