Anna Ross and Richard Davison provide some of their top dressage competition tips ahead of the Dodson & Horrell Novice Dressage Championships, held at at Stoneleigh Park, 16-20 September 2015.
1. Be prepared and stay calm
Anna Ross (AR)
Plan ahead, get there early and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do absolutely everything. Take time to get to know the showground, where the toilets are and where the secretary’s office is and take into account the time it will take you to get from the stables and down to the arena when you are planning your warm up.
Richard Davison (RD)
If it’s your first Championships don’t let the hype and excitement surrounding it affect your performance. If you’ve been producing performances that are good enough to qualify, then just go and do what you have been recently doing - nothing more and nothing less.
2. How to approach the Arena Walk
Do the arena walk early in the morning but bear in mind that doesn’t always relate to how your horse may react when it comes to your time to compete. At Stoneleigh when the horses go into the arenas on their own, together with the applause for the neighbouring arenas, they can momentarily become a bit scared, so be prepared to react appropriately and have a contingency plan (cutting out a spooky corner, use your voice to calm the horse etc).
If you are doing the arena walk make sure you have practiced riding your horse twice a day if you don't usually do this. Young horses especially doing the Novice Championships can get quite tired taking in all the sights at the Championships and doing the arena walks as well. Also, make sure you walk round on your own so that your horse focuses on you and the surroundings and not on making new friends with the other horses.
3. Remain focused
Focus only on the aspects you can control/influence - that is how you ride your horse - and don’t worry about other things like what the other riders are doing, how good their horses appear or what the judges are marking as all those things are out of your control and will simply distract your focus.
Try not to completely change routine once you're there. Preparation really is everything, know your test forwards, backwards and in your sleep and you will not forget it.Make sure you have a friend who is ready to take your whip off you before you enter the competition arena.
4. Smile and enjoy it!
If you are the sort of person who pulls faces when they are concentrating make sure you smile on the way out so that you get a nice photo and can relive that moment! It's a huge achievement to make it to the Championships so try to remember that and not let your nerves get the better of you. Good luck!
Afterwards, look back at your video and read your test sheets before analysing your test. Enjoy the experience of moving up to Championship level and use it as a stepping stone - there is life after the Dodson & Horrell Novice Championships!