Hey everyone! Happy spring!

Mornings in Wellington

Mornings in Wellington

This morning I got a text message from a friend telling me that Iliado had been loaded safely on the trailer in Wellington and that he was en route home. This moment was basically when I fully realized that the Florida season is over. I miss it already! But, this moment was also when I came to understand that the shows in Canada are just around the corner – less than 2 months away! I immediately became super excited, and I started writing down a bunch of things I want to work on for this year. Seeing as it is my second year doing FEI Juniors, I have pretty high expectations of myself and I really want to work on mastering those tests. Below are 3 of my most important goals, and I hope you read them because they may apply to you.

  1. X, Halt Salute

At X, not 2 metres before, not one stride after. At X. This is something that I (and probably a lot of other dressage riders) struggle with. Getting that perfect halt right at X is definitely a challenge, but it is so important because there are judges sitting at E and B, and they have the perfect view to see whether or not you have stopped at the letter. You might just be thinking ‘Wait, it’s just one halt isn’t it? Why is that such a big deal?’ Well, it’s a big deal because your entrance is the judges’ first impression of you, and it can actually affect scores throughout the test because judges who have a good imprint of you in their minds will probably be more lenient in the entire test. The halt is also the last impression of you so if you ace that, then your collectives will in all likelihood be better. So, what can we do to nail our halts? I think a great strategy is to count how many strides it takes you to get to X, and then remember that number when you are in the ring. It will be an easy way to improve the accuracy of your halts and you won’t have to awkwardly look to the side to find X! This year, since I am already pretty comfortable with the FEI Junior Tests, I really want to keep my focus on improving my halts because they really are one of the most crucial elements of dressage.

  1. Extended walk

A lot of people underestimate the value of the walk in a dressage test, but actually it is super important, particularly the extended walk, as it gives the judges a really good idea of how truly through the horse is over his back and how accepting of the leg he is. My horse has a really great walk; it is one of the highlights of his movement. However, I felt that this year (Florida especially) I didn’t capitalize on his naturally great movement and my extended walk scores were not as high as they could have been. Instead of a 6.5 or 7, I want them to be an 8 or 9 because I know that they can be. We as dressage riders can increase our walk scores by preparing well for the extension – and that is definitely what I need to work on. I need to make my horse a little deeper in the contact and test him with my leg. Is he listening to my leg? Is he truly through in the bridle? Those are the key questions that we need to keep asking ourselves when trying to master the extended walk.

Iliado and I in Florida

Iliado and I in Florida

  1. Corners, corners, corners.

CORNERS!!! We need to go into our corners! Corners are a really great area of the ring to make small adjustments to our horses and prepare them more accurately for the upcoming movements. I personally have trouble with my corners because when I get a bit nervous in the ring I often don’t think it through and capitalize on that space. Many people think that corners aren’t the most important because they aren’t actually marked movements in the test, however, they are essential for setting our horses up properly for movements and making them more supple and responsive. My coach always tells me that I have to be constantly testing Iliado and making sure that he is listening and on the aids. Well, the corners are the perfect place to do this. They aren’t marked so you can make more noticeable adjustments without your score dropping too much, and you can use the turn to make them bend more. They really are a godsend. This year, I challenge myself and everyone else to really thing about and ride their corners effectively! Using them is definitely one of the keys to success.

Thanks everyone! Stay tuned for more updates about showing!

Xoxo

-Alex