Snow days are hopefully on hold, however challenging weather can be viewed as an opportunity to prepare for your dressage adventures ahead. Now is the time to begin your personal 2018, out of the saddle dressage rider development training and preparation. There can be a lot to think about when you’re competing, out of saddle training can help with developing a routine to allow you to focus. Along with this planning and prepping your spring dressage competitions can help, planning the packing up of trailers/ lorries, ensuring you have everything for the unpredictable weather and the unpacking at the end of the day. All these aspects of getting ready for the spring dressage calendar can be done inside on those rainy days and eliminate your boredom from this unpredictable weather.
Reflect on your riding strengths and build a profile of your partnership with your horse. Start a journal on paper or online and consider the best moments you had in training or competition. Gather your Dressage test sheets and any video footage. Also reflect on recent schooling sessions and what felt good. Where were you? What did you notice? What did you feel? Describe what made the moment special. Think about Dressage movements and exercises that you and your horse perform consistently well. How could you include them into a schooling session and how could you adapt them for variety?
Another out of the saddle task is to review the fitness levels of your team. Most riders can confidently assess and develop their horse’s fitness. Now is a good time to check in with your own fitness and what areas you could work on. There are so many resources and fitness plans available, so make sure you get professional advice to help inform your choice. There are Dressage related organizations that now offer rider specific fitness and exercise classes. Many of them offering online videos, apps or audio aid so you can also carry on your fitness plan at home. Explore Pilates or Yoga classes as well as activities which raise your heart rate such as cycling.
Riders can improve their own performance in training or/and at competitions. Develop your confidence and concentration by learning about how mindset affects our wellbeing and partnership with our horses. Out of the saddle, pay attention to sleep quality, eating well and making time to relax. These lifestyle activities may seem obvious but looking after yourself can make all the difference to you and your horse. Part of your wellbeing planning can be looking at how you spend your downtime. Try creating a vision board with images and quotes that inspire you both riding and relaxing. Pinterest is a helpful online tool and have you tried listening to audio books and podcasts?
Having created an out of the saddle training plan the next task is to decide when and where to compete/ attend training. If lack of transport prevents you competing, have a look for online Dressage competitions. These allow you to ride and film a test at home.
For those heading out, either to a competition or for training purposes, read on and find out about our Road Trip Tips!
Weather patterns are unreliable and uncontrollable. So, making sure you have the essentials for you and your horse when out is a good idea. Especially when travelling alone. You’ll want to make sure that both of you are warm, dry, hydrated and well fed. Write yourself a kit list and tick items off as you pack. To cope with variable weather, it makes sense to pack extra clothes, so you can layer up or change as you need to. Plan your route, charge your phone, make sure your vehicle is well maintained and ready for the journey. Create a playlist or choose an audio-book. Journeys seem to flow more easily with a soundtrack or a good podcast.
Remember as well as forage and water supplies for your horse, you’ll need to eat too. It’s a good idea to have a box of snacks, some can be healthy and others a treat. Invest in some boxes or tubs that make packing and prepping meals on the go easy. Pack a protein source and consider taking a flask filled with hot soup or a hot drink as well as water. This saves the effort of stopping at a garage to refuel and choosing snacks which aren’t always a healthy option!
Allow plenty of time to arrive at the venue to feel confident and relaxed. This will allow you to focus on your routine and preparation before you begin your warm up. Your out of the saddle development training can be of real use here. You will be familiar with what you need to do to focus on your performance and have a clear plan to follow. Your development plan will have explored previous training and competition experiences that had positive outcomes. As a result, you will have a clear process for recreating a good approach and mindset that benefits your partnership.
We all know that unpacking after the event and putting everything away is the most challenging part of any road trip, so make a plan.
Reusable shopping bags that fold small are ideal. They can be used for packing up horse laundry whilst at the event to do later. Tack cleaning is probably the last thing you will want to face. So, at the event wipe over the tack to remove the worse of the dirt with a damp sponge, this will make the cleaning task easier the next day. Give your riding boots the same attention. Have more bags for wet gear, one for horse stuff and the other for your clothes. Luggage options / anything with wheels will make unloading much easier. Resist all temptation to hurry through this process. Have a cup of tea or coffee and be methodical, you will thank yourself tomorrow!
Whilst we are enjoying the promise of spring, the dressage calendars will be following their distinct seasons of first round competitions. These are the pathway to a variety of championships as well as forming part of your training program.
Please do share your Dressage plans with us. We would love to hear about your goals. We’d also love to know your top tips for show day picnics!
Alison Kenward is a British Horse Society Accredited Professional Coach, Senior Rider & Coach and Stable Manager. Alison is a British Dressage Competition Rider, Trainee Judge, Mindset and Performance Coach. UKCC 3