9 Ways to Crush It this Eventing Season
Want a head start on the rest ahead of the restart of competitions? 9 foolproof ways to raise your game this Eventing Season
1. Video Analysis
Find videos of yourself riding, whether from the last month, over the winter or last year. Take time to watch them carefully. How's your position? Could you be more balanced, or
your seat more independent? Perhaps your hands drift down (or up). Look at footage of you jumping and slow it down to frame by frame, do your legs swing as you fold? In your jump position, if you took the horse away and were left standing on the floor, would you fall or could you balance?
2. Read through old dressage tests
Dig out your old dressage tests (yes, even the one you wish you'd shredded). Do they have any common comments? Do judges often pick you up for a lack of engagement or loss of rhythm? Highlight the phrases they often use before you ride your horse and as you're schooling be aware of those phrases. Are you keeping engagement through your transitions? Does your horse often lose his rhythm as he becomes unbalanced through turns? If you're unsure about any of the phrases the judge has used, give your instructor a ring and ask for them to explain them, or take a look on YouTube for some tutorials
Armed with your new clarity about how your horse is going and what your recurring problems are, book in some lessons with an instructor you know. Send over some videos highlighting what you want to work on or take over your test sheets for them to read and let them know exactly what you want to improve. Make a strategy to address any weak areas and try to have someone video the exercises you do (or write them down after before you forget) for you to practise the next time you school. If you cant get to your trainer, why not try a FaceTime lesson or use the Equiratings On Form app
4. Write a plan
Make a realistic plan for the rest of the season. Okay so you might not get as far as you were planning in January but one half of the season is still 6 (ish) events. Aiming to step up a level? Make a definite plan for where you want to do it and have a couple of back up options if the going gets tough. Top tip: try not to plan your step up as your last event of the season, always have a nice easy run so if things do go pear shaped your horse has a good last experience to look back on next year.
5. Look back at last season
How did last season go for you? Did you struggle with nerves or have a mental block about a certain type of fence? These things tend to come back when you're least expecting them so take as hard a look at last year as you can and get a jump on things. Ring a sports psychologist to speak about performance anxiety to address competition stress or set up an exercise in the school to help prepare you for tricky lines. Last year Tess developed an issue with corners on bending lines. God knows why, but suddenly they were everywhere. The school was rarely without poles on a curve or cones around the corner to stop her falling in. Extend the exercises to flatwork too! Being prepared is the first step to beating a mental block!
6. Set a long term goal
Look ahead to next season. What would you like to achieve when it comes round? Do you need to start thinking about getting MERs (Minimum Eligibility Requirements)? Perhaps you want to step up a level (or two) and would be better spending this year consolidating everything you've worked on and finishing on a high? Are you hoping to qualify for a championships? Check the entry criteria and make sure you're not over qualifying yourself and work out when all the qualifiers are (if you're super sneaky you can even see what other events are running those weekends and find ones that are likely to be undersubscribed or with strong/easy courses)
7. Statistical analysis
Not for everyone, but why not try working out your FOD (Finished On Dressage [score]) percentage or your six test average dressage? The key to success is working smarter, not harder. Why spend all of your money working on improving your dressage tests when you always have a run out cross country? Find where your weaknesses REALLY lie and put your time and money into where you need the most improvement. You can find a simple (and free) guide to Equiratings' top five metrics for analysis here
8. Positive Psychology
You know what nobody ever focusses on? How great it is when things go well. We go out, we compete, we come back and we go "that fence went badly I have to focus on that and make sure it doesn't happen again". There's a place for constructive criticism but you need the construction first. Look through the videos, or tests, or photos or memories you have of things going well. Even if they're not perfect, take the time to really focus on the good bits and give yourself a pat on the back for all the things you did well. Putting yourself into a positive mentality will help you engage with improvements in a constructive way and will help you enjoy the sport more as an experience. TOP TIP: While you're doing this, have a polo or certain flavour of sweet, or pinch or press a certain place eg. your wrist. As you're warming up have your polo or pinch that spot and your brain will recall those happy feelings and positive mindset. This will stop you feeling so stressed and you'll not only enjoy the competition more but the nerves will affect your performance less! If you want to read more about positive psychology, try this article
Find videos of riders you admire and relate to. Maybe you've always wanted posture like Ingrid Klimke or hands like Sam Griffiths. Watch them ride and focus on what you want to emulate. Think about how it must feel to ride that way or what muscles they must be using to attain that position. Look carefully at how they use their aids, when do they use their legs for the movements, can you identify where they use their seat or set up for the movements? Visualise yourself in their position and what you would feel underneath you if your horse was moving in that way. Visualisation is also an important tool on the day of competiton. Imagine riding the course and "see" every stride and how you'll ride every line. For help on how to best use visualisation to your advantage, check out this article
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