Having your coach at the show is always nice. You have the support of the person who helps you along this journey, the one who knows how to keep you on task and ‘sane’ while you are getting ready, warming up and watching your ride. They can give you a critique after and can help you to decipher the test comments when you get your test paper back. Thanks Coach, but sometimes they can’t be there for you and only you.
Maybe they are riding, maybe they are coaching other students, maybe they are not at the show at all……….. ah, goodness, what now?
First, let’s start with the planning. Have a plan you will stick to with or without your coach. This will help you stay organized mentally and physically and therefore more relaxed and able to think and ride more clearly.
Know your tests, and since you have been timing your warm-up for the last week to 10 days, you already know how much time you need to warm-up and what you need to warm-up. Knowing your test can help set up what you are doing to do in your warmup. IE. you don’t need to do any canter half passes if you are doing Third Level test #1, because there are NONE in the TEST!!!!
Take your warm-up time and add 5-10 mins for “just in case”. You need to BE IN the warm-up ring at your warm-up time (after a walk about or lunge), so those extra minutes will get you around the arena, an extra lap in walk, or for a “stop and think” moment, and putting on your coat. Maybe 15 mins is better, I find extra time is easy to waste, but not enough time is hard to make-up.
Go into the warm-up ring with A PLAN. I like to get people to think of their warm-up in 3 parts.
Part 1. to just get warm – walk, trot, canter both reins and find out what kind of horse you have. Lazy, tired, hot, wired, supple, stiff.
Part 2. Deal with the horse you have – and decide what to do with your suppling exercises for your level, both lateral and longitudinal, to deal with that type of horse.
Part 3. Specific patterns and combinations from the test. You might have already done some of these in Part 2, but as you are in your final 10 mins of your warm-up, you want your horse to be an active participant in your test, not anticipating and not asleep. And leave the warm-up ring “at attention” not on a long rein, your horse will think he is leaving the ring and going back to the barn.
Stick with the plan and avoid trying anything new – so when you see your competitor doing something completely different from your plan, do not copy them thinking it is a good idea. It probably isn’t for you and your horse. Discuss this after with your coach, or try it next week after the show is over.
Go with the flow, no major battles about anything. You are not going to fix it now, live with it and fix it next week or over the next few weeks.
Don’t rush it, you can’t rush the warm-up and you can’t make your horse relax. You just have to wait. Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact (heard that before?). Have a relaxed, rhythmic horse, and you have a good chance of a good test. Quality and clarity of your gaits will always get good marks.
Breathe!!!! In and out in a regular rhythm. Sounds simple, but most people need to be reminded. If you breathe too shallow, you will tire quickly. Help keep your energy with lots of water, snacks and breathing!
Right before, put on your coat, a smile and enjoy the ride. Now is your chance to show off to the judge – they want to give you good marks and they want to see some good tests!