Tag: Mindset

Comparisons & Equestrians

Comparisons & Equestrians

I have long compared myself to other riders. The hallmark of these comparisons has been a sense of not good enough-ness. In years gone by I’ve felt the need to justify where I am on my journey in comparison to others. My sense of self-worth […]

The Equestrians Guide to Motivation

The Equestrians Guide to Motivation

What is motivation? When we enter the world of horses we are seized as Ralph Waldo Emmerson says ‘by a grand passion’. It is the thing that gets us up at all hours of the morning, that sees us mucking out stables, weeding paddocks all […]

What is in a dressage score?

What is in a dressage score?

As dressage riders we have all had that experience of going into the ring and feeling like we rode an awesome test, only to receive our test sheets and be disappointed with the score.

Sometimes it may be that what we were feeling and what the judges saw were two different things, but there are other factors at play in this situation.

The scoring of a dressage test can be a strange and unpredictable matter. For me, there are a few things I take into consideration when I get my score back

I tried to explain this issue to my non-horsey partner, after experiencing this very phenomenon last year. His response was rather wise and thoughtful. He reminded me that the judge can only mark what they see on the day and that they have no idea just how far you have come. Our coaches have probably all told us something similar to the first part of this idea. The second part  really made me think.

Today, I went out to a local, unofficial club competition and rode an elementary test for a 65%, the same score I received for this test when we last rode it about 6 weeks ago (the same weekend that I had my first medium start). I was happy enough with this score, although parts of today’s test felt far better. I quickly realised that there were a few things this score didn’t show. For instance, that I have recently had to ride through some really sticky stuff with Nonie.  She has decided that it would be far easier if I carried her around the ring. The score also doesn’t show that this time I didn’t have my mum there to warm me up.

the score given to a dressage test can depend on many factors

I also think its important to consider that while there are judging guidelines, the reality is that things will always be a little murky when humans are involved. While some judges may score on the generous side, some will be sticklers for correctness marking in a more conservative manner and others may find some things inexcusable and mark accordingly. It may in fact be very misleading to compare scores from different judges.

I often find that while the scores may vary the comments are usually fairly accurate. I always take time to read and understand the comments. Its helpful to consider these comments. Do they come up regularly? If so do these comments speak to a larger issue? Can you develop some goals around these and incorporate them into your training plan. Take time to recognise the progress that you have made. But most importantly never allow one score or even two or three to define your riding.

Thank you to Jordan Wicks Photography for capturing these beautiful images.

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Bailey Nolte Part 1 – Finding love in horses

Bailey Nolte Part 1 – Finding love in horses

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Bailey Notle law student, fiancé and all round incredible equestrian. Learn about how she entered the horse world and then found her way to dressage.

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Two weekends ago Nonie and I danced down the centreline of our first ever medium dressage tests. In the week leading up to this competition my body was filled with a maelstrom of emotions. Excitement, nerves and pride. While we didn’t make take the dressage […]

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Toward the end of last year, Nonie and I started work on the flying changes. Flying changes!!! Being deemed ready to ride this brand new movement felt like a huge accomplishment. It felt like we had arrived! Having now started them, I can’t help but feel that my initial eagerness belied my naivety.
I have come to understand that the changes are a challenge which require strength, relaxation and timing. There is an additional layer of challenge because you either complete one or you don’t. Sure there are varying levels of excellence within this movement however learning to ride the changes is vastly different from other skills where you are able to gradually develop them. For instance, when beginning shoulder in you may feel a glimmer of brilliance before it slips through your fingers. You can then continue to build upon that feeling until suddenly you can ride a whole long side in shoulder in.
Nonie and Andrea
The changes started well under the watchful and analytical eye of our coach Dani Keogh, but when we started to work on them on our own it was a different story. We would warm up well and progress on to school the flying changes. After achieving maybe one or two each way that were fine Nonie would brace against me, take over and speed off. Maybe because she is an exuberant horse, or more likely this was the natural result of me asking with a far bigger aid than required. So I would go home and read articles, watch videos and find a new exercise to try. I would try it a couple of times with success but then Nonie would again take over.
The reason we were struggling with the flying changes wasn’t necessarily that my position is weak or because Nonie’s canter needed more jump and strength (although in some respects it does). Rather it was because whenever tension would enter in the canter work, particularly on the right rein Nonie would push in through her her right shoulder allowing her to brace against me and avoid my aids. Ironically this is the exact issue that Dani had spent a large chunk of time working on with us in our last lesson. Who’d have guessed!
It’s not the first time that I have learnt a lesson in this way where I’ve been told something a million times and then suddenly the lesson clicks and the light bulb goes off! Eureka, we have understanding! I suspect a few factors play into this. I believe that timing is essential. In order to deeply understand a lesson, we must be in a place were mentally we are ready for it. On the other, it may have more to do with hearing the lesson explained in a way that makes sense. You know how 4+5 equal 9 but 3+6 also equal 9. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.
So I took  a few steps back to focus on the prerequisites for a good change. For example, the transitions, the balance, the tempo control and keeping her wrapped around my inside leg, and only occasionally asking for a change. This approach did help to create some progress. However I sensed that my mind was also holding me back. This came more from past experiences of my mind getting in the way, rather than a true understanding of exactly what was happening at that point in time.
Flying changes and mind games
I suspected that a phone call to my performance and mindset coach Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus would be helpful. So that was exactly what I did. I have sought Dani’s assistance previously with great success. Anyone who has ridden dressage knows that it takes a great deal of athletic ability. Equally, it requires great strength of mind and the ability to remain clear headed under pressure. When learning a new movement or in situations where our equine partner may be unsure, it is up to us as the rider, to step up and be the leader and gently guiding our horse to understanding.
Talking through the difficulties I was having with Dani helped me to figure out exactly what was going on. For instance bracing against Nonie, holding tension in my thighs and my mind going blank at the vital moment I needed to ask for the change. We then worked out a strategy, including breathing at key moments to help manage these issues. I got to try the strategy out the very next day. Low and behold I was excited about the prospect of riding the changes rather than being nervous about how she would respond. We only got a quick ride in due to me leaving work late. Regardless we managed a calm easy change on each rein. No speeding up into the change. No barreling down into the reins after the change. No more excessive use of aids.
The flying changes are not yet perfect, but they are certainly improving and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for. Little improvements each day add up to big changes in the long term (pardon the pun!). This experience has reinforced for me the importance of mindset. Riding is as much a mind game as it is an athletic pursuit.
Until next time, happy riding!