Be ready to ride your dressage test on grass
After a winter of competing in arenas, you’ll probably be feeling pretty confident about your preferred dressage test. That is, until you turn up at the showground to find a grassy field with a few small markers to keep your horse on the straight and narrow. “There’s a couple of reasons why markers on grass cause problems,” says Helen. “The first is that it looks different from what you’ve practised at home. The second is linked to having a fear of open spaces, as mentioned earlier. The third is that your horse might just get excited when his hooves touch grass.”
Prepare at home
There’s no better way to prepare for an outdoor dressage test than by recreating the situation at home. “Put some dressage markers in your paddock at home and learn your test on grass,” says Helen. “It’ll get your horse used to the sensation and help you practise your test in an environment you’ll experience on the day. Some people remember their test better if they learn it in a similar setting at home.” If you haven’t got dressage markers, use poles or blocks instead. Alternatively, try riding your dressage test next time you’re out hacking. It’ll get you both used to riding it in different places.
What to do on the day
If you haven’t been able to practise on grass at home, fear not. Come competition day, as Helen explains, the best thing you can do is to look for similarities to the environment and setting you are used to practising in. “A lot of riders focus on the differences at competition compared to home, but this will stress you out,” says Helen. “Focus on the similarities. For example, the markers might look different, but they’ll still be in the same position. “Another thing I like to get riders to do is to envisage invisible walls rising up from the markers. This helps to create an imaginary boundary for you to keep your horse in.”
Feeling grass beneath their hooves makes some horses excitable
Set up a grass arena at home to get your horse used to being out of the school