It turns out this excitement was short lived! We posted terrible scores at our first two events of the year – all our old contact issues, poking nose comments came back and so too did the mortification! My dressage coach Karen got me to talk her through my warm-up and watched videos of our tests as she was baffled to what was going on. Our scores at pure dressage were decent enough, and our work at home was also nice. What was going on?
I think in hindsight it was a mix of me trying too hard, putting too much pressure on myself and then not actually riding well on the day because of the pressure, and associated disappointment! We were back to a dark place where neither of us wanted to do any dressage. I actually debated if it was worthwhile eventing this season, as in all honestly; I was only making up the numbers. Big thanks for my friend Bella for her help and encouragement at these first two events as I’m not sure I would have completed at Floors without her as my head was not in the game after the terrible dressage.
It felt like we had hit a brick wall so we decided to go right back to basics with our training - revisiting some basic schooling principles was the key to progression.
At home we had been working at novice level and starting to introduce some elementary movements. For BE90 it’s only a prelim level test so should surely have been easy?! We started to concentrate on the basics. We worked on use of the outside rein (which it turns out I had just stopped using?) and inside leg, lots of transitions and ensuring I was reacting quickly to soften my hands the minute things went well but also to fix things as soon as they didn’t!
After only a week of this drilling in the school things started to get easier and at our next event our scores really improved, I stopped over thinking and tried to ride soft and forward. It’s funny how a few good weeks can lift your spirits, build confidence and then actually allow to you to ride better.
My new mantra is “When you expect the worst in dressage and ride defensively, then the worst will happen!” I have also started to listen to music when practicing at home which keeps my spirits up. No one can ride defensively while singing along to Uptown Funk!
We are now a month on and things have steadily continued to get better. I have heard people talk about a positive mental attitude a lot and now finally understand what they mean. By riding positively and enjoying myself our scores have continued to improve – we have picked up qualifications for the PetPlan Area Festivals, Scottish Championships and the Celtic Dressage Championships. My qualifications are at bronze prelim which is the entry level at BD – previously I would have called it the bottom/lowest level, or said “it’s only prelim bronze” but with my new positive outlook I am now proud to tell people, it’s a great achievement for a combination who couldn’t even ride round an arena in any type of outline a few months ago.
Moral of the blog is – stay positive, ask for help when you need it, and it’s never bad to take a step back help you move forward in the long run. It should be fun and when it stops being fun, you need to do something to make it fun again!