Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Show Strategies

With our entries mailed and accepted for the upcoming Houston Dressage Society Winter Shows I and II January 18-20, I am revisiting some showing and schooling strategies. 
The following are some ideas I learned from Jane Savoie.

Becoming a confident, relaxed, composed competitor is a skill I can learn.  My schooling strategies prior to the show can include a pre-show prep with dress rehearsals at home: braid and use show clothes etc.  The adrenaline kicks in but I have a chance to practice without the pressure of the show.  Field trips are also helpful: work your horse in a crowded area (mimicking the warm up area at the show).  Control the variables that you have the ability to control.  Schooling shows are good for going through the motions until it's just second nature.  Well before the show it can be helpful to go to a friend's place then let your horse hang out and graze, then take him home then build up to tack up go home, warm up go home, then mock competition go home, with lots of praise and treats.

Before the day of the show even gets here, I will begin to asses my mental attitude.  I'm thinking of the show as a wonderful outlet for spending time with, bonding with, and having fun with my horse.  I'm thinking of the excitement rather than "nerves."  The body's physiology is similar for both excitement and nervousness, so I will choose excitement.  One can "do" emotions via one's physiology; for example: stand tall, breathe deeply, smile, poise, calmness.  I'll examine my focus: what am I focusing on?  Avoid why? or how come? questions that are low quality.  Rather use high quality questions like "What did I learn from my previous showing experiences that will help me at this show?"  "What was good about this?" or "How can I learn from this?"

On the day before the show, I will use visualization: I'll make my mental images very vivid, using the color of the horse, seeing his braided mane, feeling the arena footing, noting the temperature, the color of my helmet, I'll hear the regularity of the rhythm of his footfalls.  I will see my horse's ears comfortably flopping at half mast; I will smell the fly spray and grooming products; I will feel a comfortable weight in the reins.  Then I'll add emotion: I will feel calm and confident, and feel gratitude. 

In the actual arena in which I will be riding, I'll stand at A and visualize myself riding the perfect test.  I will go a day early to give myself plenty of time.  First I'll ride at home in the morning to get our work done then take Rijkens to the show and let him settle into his stall.  Then I'll saddle him and walk around to relax, maybe do some rising trot and transitions because our actual work is done already that morning at home.  

During the competition, I will again focus.  I'll visualize that my horse and I are very crisp and clear in my mind's eye and everything else outside is fuzzy, gray and receding into the background.  I'll practice good breathing; in every corner I'll take a deep breath.  I'll use diaphragmatic breathing where my shoulders stay down and my belly expands, then exhale and feel myself dissolving down into my horse.

While I'm actually competing I'll use the "triple A" (AAA) method: Ask And Allow.  When I'm tense I can get into a mode of hanging; instead Ask And Allow: give an aid then release and allow the horse to do what you've asked.  You can practice this at home with your reins around a fencepost: take up three to five pounds of pressure, then back to two pounds, then five pounds, then zero pounds without changing your riding position and keeping your "heavy elbows" down.  As you're at the show say to yourself "triple A" Ask And Allow.

After the show I'll again ask high quality questions.  What did I learn from this?  I'll focus on the positives by writing down five positive things that went well at the show.  I'll take feedback from the show and make it my homework.  

At a schooling show feeling calm, confident, and GRATEFUL!


Anonymous said...

Where's the part about the sip of champagne?