Let it Go
The London Olympics have been a welcome distraction over the last week. But are you inspired by these top riders or demoralised? Never put yourself down when you watch. Even those that score 80% make the odd mistake! The difference is they don’t allow that one mistake to spoil the rest of their test.
Whether you’re at The Olympics or your local riding club show when you enter at A you’re just another horse and rider doing a test asking a judge to give you a mark out of 10. The only difference is the degree of difficulty. (And a small matter of a few million viewers) Any rider and any horse can do dressage. Whatever your level your horse just needs to be straight, balanced and rhythmical.
Look at a Grand Prix test and you’re see there’s very little room for error. Impressive as they are they’re no harder for their riders than your test is for you and your horse. It’s just what you’re used to. Never put yourself down when you watch a good test. Use it and learn from it. Even if it has just won an Olympic Gold!
Watch a few tests and get the inevitable “amazing and fantastic” bit out of your system! Then go through again and use it to help you. Look for the errors. They’re just the same as yours but on a grander scale and it can give you a real confidence boost to realise that top riders make mistakes too.
Tests are won and lost on accuracy. It’s the little things that can be the difference between winning and losing. If a piaffe, a medium trot or a 20m circle was supposed to be at A it doesn’t matter how amazing it was it will still lose marks.
A dressage test is just a list of paces joined by transitions. Whatever your level a transition needs to be accurate, relaxed – and expected! A flying change is a transition from one canter lead to the other. If a horse changes when he wasn’t asked – or puts one in too soon because he anticipates being asked – then it’s just as bad as your horse jogging in the walk because he’s anticipating trot or rushing from trot to canter.
There is one thing that puts top riders in a class of their own. Their reaction when things do go wrong. Or lack of one. There is very little time in a test to worry about a mistake so let it go. The more you try to correct or suppress it the less time you have to get ready for the next box.
There are no points in dressage for bravery! The best you can hope for is a sympathetic smile from the judge at the end. If things go wrong stick a smile on your face and ride forward. Mistakes happen but they don’t have to ruin your score.
When you learn a test make sure you can pick it up at any point. Know it inside out. When you ride it always think one box ahead. If you’re having it called make sure your caller tells you the next command as you’re halfway through the previous one.
Imagine you’re coming down the centre line. As you pass X start thinking about the turn and the corner at the end. As you turn look up the track at the circle or change of rein you’re about to do. Halfway across a diagonal in medium trot think about your downwards transition to working trot and the subsequent medium walk, three loop serpentine or canter transition that’s coming up. This forward thinking means if your horse decides to spook at the flowers or puts in a transition you weren’t expecting you won’t give it a second thought because you’re already one step ahead.
Good luck and enjoy The Olympics.