Preparation is the key

Preparing for a dressage test

Spending a sleepless night before a competition worrying about the whiteness of your gloves or where on earth you put that new packet of hair nets, or for that matter if you have actually memorised the right test, is far from the way to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to ‘Wow the Judges’ in the competition arena. - Yet we’ve all done it…  

I myself have spent many nights tossing and turning in the early hours  of precompetition dawn needlessly pondering trivia such as the mysterious location of the tail bandage that colour co ordinates so nicely with Kit’s Travel boots  or the where abouts of my lucky bra, without the wearing of which any competition would be doomed…!  It is ridiculous, I was so tired  of quite literally being ‘tired’ come show time that I resolved to become OCD, obsessively, compulsively Dressage. 

Preparation is the key.  We take the time to prepare our horses for competition , we make sure they have a peaceful night, a stress free journey in order to minimise their angst and maximise their productivity on the day and yet we rarely take the time to prepare ourselves and usually end up running about, nerves and entry forms a flapping.  Winning in sport is often down to one’s state of mind and although in dressage there are two minds to account for, in my case mine and Kit’s, I find if I can unclutter my brain and clarify my focus it helps both of us to perform at our best.

The day before a competition I have a routine which helps me not only organise the logistics but also my nerves. I have a military check list that a marine would be proud of, which I allow myself to run through as often as I feel necessary up until 5pm the day before the show.  I have a showbag which contains all my competition gear, including spares of everything, right down to underwear. I have a Kit bag for Kit  that contains all his essentials and spares, only no underwear.   Once I have double, triple checked the contents of these after 5pm I forbid myself to  fiddle or fret anymore.   I then spend an hour  but no more, quietly trotting up the test in the living room trying as I do so to avoid tripping over the pouf and Uffa, both of which are inevitably  lying somewhere on the floor in my make shift arena.  Once this hour is over, I mentally put the next days competition to bed before relaxing and doing something completely undressage related for a couple of hours before heading off to bed myself in the knowledge that everything is in its place.

Once in bed, instead of counting sheep, when I close my eyes I count my strides in my mind and as Kit and I enter the arena, before I’ve had chance to halt and salute, within 12 canter strides I’m asleep safe in the knowledge that I’m well and truly prepared and ready for the next day’s adventure.

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Ant Lynch

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