Learn your test!

This weekend is another one of my training shows for Vinny –  “The Vinny Plan” and his ‘sh-mojo’.  Another confidence builder to add to last month’s mini-show.  As well, I have a few students riding, so I have been doing a lot of “prep” for riders.  It got me to thinking, that after YEARS of showing there are just some things I just KNOW and some things that I have stumbled into knowing.

1. First thing to remember is that nothing is going to change now so you better enter a test that you can do proficiently at the time you put your entries in.

Your horse is not going to miraculously have clean flying changes nor develop an extended trot in the next 5-10 rides. So, either live with the fact your changes have a 50/50 chance of being clean (or maybe 60/40) and do Third Level anyway, or stay at Second Level. But, OMG, do NOT go and school the changes to death where your horse gets over anxious, too excited, or just plain crazy with them!  You will regret it next weekend during the test when your horse takes off and bolts into a crazy change during the test and you say “but he has never done that before.”  Sometimes you just have to leave things alone and trust they will be there when you need them.

2. Know your test. I mean inside and out, memorized and you have an idea on how to ride the patterns for your horse’s idiosyncrasies.   And you should know all the tests of your level so that you can work on the combinations and patterns on a daily basis.  If know the trot pattern from Third #1 the it is easy to put this into your everyday work.  And thus making the pattern so familiar that when you get to the show, it is easy.  And OMG, do NOT say to me you don’t know your test.  That makes me nuts! If I can learn ALL the tests, you can learn the 3 in your level.   OR BARE minimum, the one you are riding on the weekend!!!!

3. Keep a positive attitude. Ok, your horse has NO idea there is a show this weekend and no ambition to win. But he probably knows you are being a bit crazier than usual.  Probably short tempered, probably more intense.  I call this Show Panic.  The week before it starts and every rider gets a bit over eager to “make it all happen  – TODAY”.  So return to #1 – remember to go with the flow and be happy with the best you have TODAY.  All you have to do is get thru this week without messing it all up.  (been there, done that)

4. Reward often.  I find this helps to keep the positive attitude and not crush your horses willing nature the week before the show.  I find it makes me A LOT more positive (#3) and calmer.

5. Breathe – Oh yeah, remember you have to breathe normally.  In and out, full lung capacity. No hyperventilating, you will just lose oxygen and lose muscle strength and maybe even pass out. So BREATHE normally.  Train your breathing by counting so you know it is regular and normal.  This will help your rhythm too so double bonus!

6. Start timing your warmup and how long it takes to get your horse to the ideal place for a test.  If you do this over a week-10 days you will have an accurate idea of how long things will take.  Then the day before the show, at the show grounds, you can decide whether to increase or decrease your warmup time depending on how your horse feels in a new place.  Vinny is a rock, he goes anywhere and goes around – cool dude (probably has to do with his hair, more on that later:) ).  So I don’t worry about that, I just have to make sure I don’t get too intense and over ride.  So I know I have to work more on me in the warmup.

7. Get all your stuff together.  Breeches, show coat, tie, pin, hair accessories (at the dollar store), saddle pads, tack cleaning equipment, braiding equipment.  Check it out and try it out before the day of the show.  Then you know it is clean, ready and you have it all – good to go.

8. Clip, trim, clean up your pony.  I like to clip the white socks the week before so they don’t look all pink and new, but stay clean and sparkly white.  I also clip the top of the tail and the bridle path the week before.

The nose whiskers I just trim up tidy, I don’t clip them off. Wash the tail and condition, but stay away from the mane.  A slippery, well conditioned mane is quite hard to braid.  Feels nice, but a mane that is a bit dirty actually braids better!

9. Surround yourself with people who support you.  This is a big one, I foster a supportive team in my barn and my crew of students.  I want everyone to help everyone and pick you up when you are down.  So at a show, it is a good time to stay close to those in your support group, who will say the right things you need/want to hear at the right time.  The time for critique will come later. Besides, most of us are too hard on ourselves.

Go to the show and smile and have a good time! Enjoy it.  Good or bad. First or last.  Showing is about having fun.  So smile and be a good sport, good horseman and good competitor.

When you finally get to the show, thank the show staff, the volunteers.  Wish your fellow competitors good luck and congratulate the winner of your class.   Who knows, someday they will all be congratulating you!

Did I miss anything?

Breathe, be calm, enjoy the journey.  Only a few more rides till the show.  Till then, Alison