Finally, we made it through most of the winter and spring is on the horizon. Spring clinics and summer shows are finally in sight.
As students begin to trailer in more frequently and share their summer competition goals, I’m often asked for warm-up strategies and advice. Of course, each horse is an individual and our approach must vary depending on the individual’s physical and mental needs. However, the below principles apply to a broad spectrum of types and levels.
Plan ahead: Days before your test be mindful when warming up. Check the time as you mount and then again when you feel like your partner is warmed-up and feeling through. At that point, you may begin to touch the various “buttons” and make sure you have all the necessary ingredients to complete each movement within your test. The duration of time it took to get to this stage of your ride, including walk breaks, is an ideal warm-up length for your horse. Often I see riders who get on their mount far too early and warm-up way past their prime. Ideally, you want both you and your mount to be fresh when you enter the arena. Otherwise, your test may appear flat, and often riders struggle to maintain their position when they are having to remind their mount to stay in front of them.
Know your test: I insist that all of my students memorize their test before showing. If the rider is focusing on the readers' directions they are focused on riding the pattern and movements, not the horse. I want the rider to know exactly where they are going well in advance, so they can focus on preparing each movement in advance and feel comfortable allowing their partner to show the full scope of their ability.
Edit: A week or so before a competition I ask my students to ride through their entire test, in a regulation arena, while being recorded. We’re then able to review the footage together and discuss where potential points can be gained. Knowing where your challenges lie within your test allows you to narrow your focus while training and better design the way you’ll approach each movement within the test. Even if you ride in front of mirrors regularly, video footage is another effective way to evaluate your riding position and posture.
If you’ve taken the time to implement the above ideas before your test, you’ll undoubtedly be in a much stronger and more confident mindset at your competition.
Rick Silvia is a seasoned international Grand Prix competitor, USDF Gold Medalist, and the resident trainer at Journey’s End Farm in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. Rick’s students have won both Regional and National Championships, with Horse of The Year honors through the International levels.www.RickSilvia.com
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