As the big competition nears, heck as any competition nears my nerves begin to kick in more. When I was younger and up through juniors last year, I don’t remember getting nervous. I don’t remember ever getting butterflies or having trouble tuning out events around me to ride. As I compete at higher levels or perhaps as dressage became the concentration of my future, it became harder to clamp down or block out nerves and events around me.
I have learned ways in which to attempt to deal with blocking out distraction. In the last few years I have asked other competitors what they do. Because, we all have to focus, we all have to concentrate in order to be in tune to the details of our rides. The horse, particularly the good sensitive ones, are just that; sensitive. They feed on every anxiety. How to find your zone and how to keep out all of the drama around you? People do it in different ways. I think many of us become almost OCD about our rituals; perhaps because the show rituals are like training itself. You work towards the end result you want by building to that moment you enter the ring. You do that for months. The week of the event is part of the ritual. Having stood on the podium before I realize now how much a part of that feeling is every little detail to get there. We talk about the farriers, vets, massage therapists, the chiropractors, the trainer, sponsors and our parents and a whole host of others helping us to get to a point in our training and competing. So do our mental rituals help us to obtain our goals? Some of us visualize. I start months before, but the month leading up to competition I do it every night for 30 minutes as I lay in bed. I do it at competition several times a day. At NAJYRC and FOC you will see people with headphones on totally focused on visualizing and blocking out distractions.
We all care about each other as people; we care about each other’s hopes, dreams and crisis. However, this is the time to focus on your performance; on your goals. For example, I was warming up in the arena yesterday and a few “wanders were in the arena.” You know the type, giving lessons from a horse roaming around the arena with no awareness of anyone around them. It is easy to let them throw you off your warm up. You try to be polite, follow the rules of arena etiquette but there is a point they can throw off your whole ride. Shauntel said to me, “Gunter always used to say, put your visor down, pick your line and commit. You are on an FEI horse; they will get out of your way. Heck, if it was Jeremy he’d push them out of his way a few times and there’d be no more problem. Later we talked about how distracting letting someone get in your space and changing your routine can be. You have to do what you need to do for your best performance in your own mind and in your warm up. I look back at what attempted to distract me last year and in my first two shows this year, and I recommit to focus. It is hard not to let your training in politeness, your desire to make friends, to renew your old acquaintances and let your daily life in at a competition, but don’t worry about what others think at this point. If you are polite, if you are a kind giving person the rest of the time, if you are a team player every day in the rest of the year, you don’t need to prove it to others as your actions will already have done so. The best thing you can do for your team is to give the best ride you are capable of giving them. This might mean tuning out and tuning in to your needs.
Training tips of the day
*Power in extensions isn’t galloping. It is not keeping the leg on to keep him forward. It is half halting constantly to keep him just back enough
* Stay powerful in transitions: Keep power level up. It helps with everything. Don’t let up in power.
*Keep pole up even when suppling.
*Be gentle when he gets defensive, otherwise he gets rude.
*When he stiffens his neck, say giving to bend, don’t try to force him into it, bend him the other way. Don’t fight the bend, shake it off.