Getting Ready For Competition
Entering a competition is one of the most rewarding endeavors a rider and horse can undertake together. The feeling of pride after winning a rosette knowing that months of work and preparation have paid off is one of the great joys of horse riding. To get yourself and your horse ready for competition requires lots of practice and even more patience.
Riding in competition is a unique experience. A rider will normally spend the majority of time with their horse riding recreationally with no pressure. Competition riding is unlike recreational riding as it requires the rider to think and evaluate their surroundings differently. Equine magazine Horse & Hound recognizes the challenges of competition and in their list of expert tips for success noted several key pointers that rider’s should take note of. For example, the twelfth point informs that learning to focus is key to blanking out everything that is not important. To be successful a rider must learn to be able to concentrate solely on the competition. They suggest that if you find it hard to focus it is advisable to either have a trigger word or pre-competition routine that your body will automatically associate with focusing.
Ensuring that your horse is physically ready is a key part of competition training. When practicing for events such as show jumping many riders focus on jump techniques in isolation rather than in the continuous competition format. The best way to get your horse prepared is to practice under competition conditions. If you believe that your horse needs to improve their cardiovascular level Equestrain.com recommends hill and interval work as hugely beneficial. The site explains, “this reduces the injury associated with galloping but still gives your horse a great cardiovascular workout. Another technique we use to get horses competition fit is interval training as well as incorporating gallop work.” A rider’s confidence will be greatly increase knowing that their horse is physically prepared for the upcoming events.
One equine event that requires a very specific preparation is racing. This March is the famous Cheltenham Festival, which UK based racing site Betfair calls “the greatest four days of racing” in a preview of the event by esteemed trainer Paul Nicholls. Marcus Armytage writing for The Telegraph reports that mentally preparing horses for events such as Cheltenham is part of the training. According to the article, this is achieved through reminding the horse of the obstacles it will face. This mental refresher can be applied to any equine event and schooling your horse to be mentally prepared will reduce the chances of unexpected halts.
The most important point in getting ready for a competition is to enjoy it. It is important to remember that many things can go wrong that are out of your control. Telling yourself before the event that no matter what happens you are going to have fun and taking pride in what you have accomplished with your horse will increase your riding confidence and performance.