What if you could wake up at 6am, have a relaxing breakfast and then make your way out to a competition, plait your horse up, compete and be back home for lunch? Well that is exactly what I did this morning for the EquiMind Summer Championships.
In July and August I competed in EquiMind’s monthly online competitions (read more about my first EquiMind competition here), qualifying us to compete in the Summer Championships.
I nominated for this competition last weekend. As the entries closed on a Friday, I wasn’t actually sure if I would be able to get my test filmed in time. In Australia we are just coming out of winter so our days are still on the short side, so filming after work was not an option. Fortunately, I had a bit of anual leave up my sleeve and a generous boss and was able to take Friday off work.
After making quick work of plaiting Nonie up, I proceeded to hop on. As I made my way up to the arena I became aware of just how uncomfortable I felt. My clothing felt tight, my top boots felt slippery and I couldn’t find my seat in the saddle. A thought slithered into my brain, ‘Why am I doing this, it won’t be fun’. I quickly recognised that this thought was my nerves talking. The nerves had likely reared their ugly head because Nonie was plaited and I was wearing my competition gear. I took some deep breathes and reminded myself of why I love competing. I considered where I was holding tension, allowed myself to release this and got on with the job of warming up. Working with Danielle Pooles, performance coach at Dressage Plus has been instrumental in my ability to manage those pesky competition nerves.
We’ve been working on Nonie staying lighter in the hand and develop more self-carriage. When she achieves this it feels amazing, but she is still developing her strength and is not maintaining it for long periods. I was pleasantly surprised at how light Nonie was as we started to warm up. She felt responsive and full of beans.
Filming our test for the Summer Championships
Once we were ready to go, I re-read the test and put on my Wilson Equestrian Show Jacket. We set off down the arena and got stuck into the test. Halfway through, I realised I was not where I needed to be. With the error of course and a couple of mistakes, a change of rein from canter to walk rather than canter to trot and an accidental flying change, I opted to start the test again.
The second time around, the test felt much better. There was a greater degree of forwardness and expression. It would appear that this is an emerging pattern, which leads me to believe that I need to get out and practise riding tests far more often. So I’m making a commitment now to ride through a test every week!
Of course the test wasn’t perfect. I need to influence Nonie to bring her hind leg through more consistently in the trot. The canter on the other hand needs more forward and jump. Overall though I do feel that we are making progress. I love being able to compete from home and have footage of the test to scrutinise later.
I’m really looking forward to receiving my feedback and being able to incorporate this into my goals and training plan.