Lately I have been participating in many different sports with my kids. Ok, PARTICIPATING might be exaggerating – but I have been present at these events. Soccer practices, swim meets, badminton tournaments and others. In all of them one common theme they have is “doing drills”.
Now, I am not a fan on “drilling” on our horses or doing things so many times in a row that it is useless – however, I think there are a few things we can take away from the idea of “doing drills” or constant repetition of a skill until it becomes ingrained in your body so your mind doesn’t have to think about it.
I am specifically thinking of exercises and combinations that we see in tests so we can apply the “doing drills” to our performance in the show ring.
1. Repeat the exercise 3-4 times until you find you have the flow of it. After that, change it slightly (more for your horse) and repeat. For Halt at X for example… trot down centre line, halt at x, trot away – alternate turning left or right. After a few tries, turn down centre line from C rather than A. Amazing how this can change your perspective. You have now doubled your number of practice drills!
2. Take an exercise and ride it 3-4 times. Take a break from it and do something else, then go back and repeat it the same way 3-4 times before finishing your ride. Sometimes when a horse is learning flying changes, I use this concept and do it 3 times. A few changes in the warm-up, go and do trot work, then try a few more changes, then go and do something else and a few changes at the end. Rather than a lot of changes at once which can make the horse who is learning too hot. This can be applied for test training as well.
3. Put #1 and #2 together in your ride and now you have quadrupled the times you have schooled one movement. Your halts at X should be pretty spectacular after a week of mixing it up like this and getting so much practice!
4. Repeat the exercise on different horses. Trade with your friends when you are riding together. I encourage my students and friends to trade horses, I am happy to trade too. Of course choose horses that can do the exercise you want to practice and ones that you might like to ride!
5. Repeat in your head for your mental training.
6. Watch videos of a good example of your exercise over and over. Either of yourself riding the movement well, or someone you can emulate. There is a lot of good – and not so good – videos online. Find something and use it to train your brain. All the sport psychologists say your body doesn’t know the difference.
7. A version of #6 is to find books with good pictures of the movements. I love Stephen Clarke’s book Dressage Dreams 10 and Reiner Klimke’s book for this. I just like seeing the pictures of the best movements in the world. Nice images to have in your head while riding the movements.