Monday, June 16, 2008

Surviving your first dressage test: Part 1

Here is Part 1 of my series "Surviving your first dressage test". You can read the other parts so far here:
By now you've probably already submitted your entry and are on the "acceptance list" for the show. But if you are just getting into dressage and are looking for a show, you should contact your local "USDF Group Member Organization". You can find your local dressage club on the website. Your local group can help you figure out how to get started in dressage. They can recommend instructors, shows, and probably even have some books or videos for you to check out. Don't be shy about contacting them, they'll be thrilled to welcome you to the sport.

Establishing a routine

So now that you are accepted to the show, where do you begin? I like to start by establishing a relaxing and reassuring routine for myself and my horse. As the show draws near, now is the time for you and your horse to feel proud of your progress and to keep up good habits that'll help you have fun and relax.

Some suggestions:

1. Establish a good sleep routine. Before bed, I relax in front of a short, soothing TV show or with a book. I enjoy a cup of herbal tea and a light snack of popcorn. Since I'm used to this routine, I usually feel sleepy within half an hour. Then I go to bed, sleepy or not. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. It will help you get relaxing rest before any exciting day, not just a dressage show.

2. Stick with your training program. Give yourselves a break and wait until after the show to learn a challenging new movement or before starting a new schedule. You've come a long way with your current program, so stick with it! Keep taking lessons with your regular instructor (if you've got one). They know you and your horse. Work on reinforcing what you and your horse already know, so that it becomes natural. That'll help you get in your groove at the show. It's also not the best time to change around your tack. But don't worry, I busted a bridle before my first show and had to get a new one 2 days before and we managed fine.

3. Help your horse relax. Spend time doing things with your horse that helps her relax. It'll help you unwind too! My horse enjoys a massage and I've learned a few basic techniques for him. You could take a trail ride or have a few "grooming only, beauty-parlor days".

4. Enlist your friends. Get advice from horse-friends who've shown, even in a different discipline; we're all under one big tent after all. If you can, find one experienced friend who can help you at the show. Or perhaps your instructor could help? I asked a friend from my barn to help me through my first show. Basically, she carried me through it, and I was so fortunate to have her help! Even the company of a non-horsey friend or family member will be wonderful. You'll be glad to have a buddy at the show. You can also ask them to read your test to you at the show. I'll write a lot more on this topic in a later entry.

5. Do some non-horsey stuff. Don't forget to spend some time doing non-horsey things you enjoy, go out with your spouse, family or a friend. Spend time on another hobby. Or you could even just clean the house while blasting loud music (works for me, and I feel good looking at my clean house afterwards). You are a multi-faceted, 21st century, renaissance person! Relish your diverse talents and interests.

Continue to Read Part 2

No comments: