With the show season quickly approaching, it’s important to make you aren’t rusty, and are ready to attack the show ring. The first show of the season is always more nerve racking than the others. Riders haven’t been in “competition mode” and have to remember some of the nuances of the show ring. It also sets the mark for how hard you have to work to hit this year’s show goals.
The most challenging job for Tom and me is making sure our riders go in the ring mentally prepared. It’s a little easier for the seasoned and more experienced riders, but it can be terrifying for some of our younger, inexperienced riders.
Here are five things that we focus on for show success:
1. Set a small goal
For less experienced riders, we start by setting a small goal. Yes, winning is important (if you didn’t see last season’s show wall, check it out here). But every rider has their own needs, and reach the “winning goal” differently. An entire course with 15 fences, double combinations, tricky lines, and roll backs, can be overwhelming. We might tell our young rider to focus on the first three fences. Make it through that, and everything up is upside. Having them only focus on those fences gets their attention off the scary wall unit that waits at fence 9. It also makes them feel good when they get past fence three, regardless how the rest of the course went. Victories can be small, and build towards your larger goals.
2. Know what helps you win
Every rider deals with their show nerves differently. Some repeat the course to you 100 times, then one more time as they’re walking in. Some keep to themselves and are quiet until it’s time to go in the ring. Whatever it may be, concentrate on what helps you focus and win. It might feel selfish, but everyone wants you to succeed. As trainers, we try to help riders understand this, but you need to communicate with your trainer/family/barnmates on what you need (within reason!).
3. Remember the basics
We know our riders, and their show goals. To get to where they need to be in September, we are working on specific items with them now. We remind them of the few things they need to concentrate on (don’t clamp with your knee, Lindsay!). Reminding our riders of the 1 or 2 major things to remember emphasizes that while it’s a show, it’s still a training ride. You have to have the basics to win.
4. Balance out your show schedule
As often as we go to the big “A” & “AA” rated shows, we try to fit in the smaller local rated shows for the riders and younger horses to gain experience without feeling the pressure of the big show grounds. It’s nice to have laid back rated shows in our backyard, where we can fix problems, keep our riders from getting rusty between big shows, or simply give them a break from the 5 day shows. It’s easier to send them in local rated shows, and get comfortable with those before sending them to a big overnight show where the courses are harder and the days are longer. And don’t forget, the same goes for your horse. Inexperienced horses need to build their confidence too. Smaller local shows will help them do just that.
5. Have fun!
Most riders aren’t professionals, and they ride because they enjoy it. Competing should be the same thing. Have fun. Make friends. Learn and become a better rider. It’s hard sometimes when you aren’t having great rides, or not winning. But remember the bigger picture - riding isn’t easy and it’s a lifelong lesson. Enjoy the ride. (pun intended)
Whether you’re an experienced rider, or one who’s new to showing, be ready for this show season. Some may seek that perfect round. We seek the growth of our riders that they improve with each class, and one day it will be pretty close to perfect. I’m so excited for what our riders will achieve this year!
p.s. Interested in riding with us or hanging out and seeing how we train? Give us a call and experience the Verden family for a day!