*Guest Post-Written exclusively for caledonequestrianpark.com
Winning an equine event is determined by what you do before you step inside the arena. Training both your horse and rider to come into a competition prepared requires smart preparation. So what do trainers do to produce competition winning horses for different events?
For show jumping, it’s important to always go into the arena with a plan. Each action should be deliberate and efficient. Multi-award winning Irish international show jumper David Simpson advises that the key to ensuring consistent results is to decide on a plan for the best round your horse can do, and execute it. This could mean that you don’t win every time, but it also guarantees that your horse remains on top form for the next day. In the end, it’s still more important to be consistently placing high up the leaderboard than to ride hastily for the win and spend the next couple of rounds trying to bring your horse back to jumping nicely.
When it comes to dressage, creating a winning mindset means making sure your horse is relaxed. This is a factor elite dressage rider and two-time Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin understands well. Judges are taught to score according to the scales of training, and the first two scales are rhythm and suppleness. A rider that isn’t relaxed cannot expect its horse to show suppleness, which is often their undoing. It’s also easier to ensure that a horse is following the correct rhythm (a four-beat walk, a two-beat trot, and a three-beat canter) when they are at ease. Moreover, the next scales—contact, impulsion, straightness and collection—can never be achieved if the horse is too tense. In order to avoid tensing up during competitions, try recreating a competition environment as often as you can. Go to a dressage competition and enter your horse for three tests in a day, no matter the level, just to practice riding in an arena and in front of a judge.
A meticulous approach to training is key to achieving a winning mindset. In Lewis Khan’s article ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Training a Racehorse’, he stresses that training a racehorse requires timing, skill and patience.
A large proportion of training racehorses is understanding their behavior, among other considerations. When you’re familiar with all of the horse’s quirks, you can find a rider that matches the horse’s disposition, experience level and needs. Because in horse racing selecting the right rider is just as important. A guide to picking a winning horse at the famed Cheltenham Festival, explains how trainers need to do a lot of research to ensure the jockey fits the horse. Horses that win races are usually those who have good chemistry with their jockeys. Trainers who focus on this match are more likely to see positive results.
For this event, it’s important not to train for perfection, but for speed of thought. As you advance, difficult grades require quick reactions. It’s also necessary for both the horse and the rider to be comfortable with the level they’re currently at before deciding to move up grades. To train for this, build technical fences, corners, and challenging lines that shouldn’t be approached from a straight line. You should also rehearse a perfect turn to practice agility. An important quality in creating a winning mindset for cross-country is to foster positive thinking and confidence. Riders coming in with a negative mindset can make horses too cautious or cause them to go too fast, which can be dangerous.