No more competing in the cold – the summer show season is in sight!

It’s a source of relief for most riders that the evenings are finally getting lighter and the weather a bit warmer, kinder, if you will. We love our four-legged friends all year round, but most of us breathe a sigh of relief once we realise we can actually move about the yard in the evening without stumbling in the dark, with icicles for feet, trying to fill haynets!

Now is the time to start thinking about the upcoming competition season. Whether you’re planning your very first dressage test or already a seasoned eventer - preparation is key. It gives you a chance to have a more relaxed run-up to competition day and adds leeway for any incidentals such as losing a shoe, which could set you back a week or more.

So, what are the things that you should be concentrating on, pre-competition season?

1. Set Goals

It doesn’t matter if they’re to attend the local gymkhana or go jumping at Hickstead; feeding, preparing and training with your specific goals in mind should be high on your list to give you the best chance of competition success.

 

2. Your Fitness

As a rider, you need to look after your own fitness too. Even if only to ensure that you have maximum strength in your legs to cling onto the saddle if your horse decides that throwing a wobbler is in order. Obviously, riding is good exercise, but complementing this with low-impact swimming, or running for cardio fitness, will improve your all-over ability to ride at your very best. Charlotte DuJardin has be known to do regular yoga as well which works on keeping your body flexible, supple and strong.

3. Feeding

Devise a feeding routine that works for your horse. There’s no truth to the idea that the more you feed you give, the better their overall condition will be. Horses actually only need enough food to have their stomachs 2/3rds full at any one time. As with preparing for feeding in winter, introduce new food and amounts gradually.

 

4. Routine

Routine, routine, routine, hopefully that’s clear. Horses thrive on knowing what’s going to happen at each stage of their day. So, work out your own personal routine and then you can ensure that your competition prepping will have maximum effect. Decide what’s right for you and your horse, whether it’s hacking out, feeding or schooling – try to make each activity the same time each day so your horse has a nice, calm comfortable regime as he moves forward into the competition season.

5. Diet

Forage should be the foundation, but beyond that it depends on the breed and age of your steed, and your competition aims. Unless you’re planning to compete at a high level, keep your horse’s diet simple. There shouldn’t be any need for special competition nuts, extra oats or buckets of sugar beet. If they aren’t getting enough natural forage outside, make sure to keep their haynets full and their feed straightforward. Forage underpins a good diet.

 

6. Kiss - Keep It Specific and Simple.

Even if you are doing multi-discipline competing, you will know how best to ride your horse in any given situation. Keeping your leg strong and hand aids light will relax your upper body and release any tension you may be carrying. Maintaining a consistent breath through your horse’s paces will keep rhythm and balance. If you feel calm and collected, so will your horse.

So, remember – successful competing needs key area preparation. With this under your belt, you’ll be flying - hopefully over the fences towards the red rosette, rather than onto the ground having been gracefully ejected by your horse.

 

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