Be ready to ride your dres­sage test on grass

Your Horse (UK) - - Better Riding -

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

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