6th Feb: 1st in Elementary 53 with 71% on Chad at Summerhouse
12th/13th Feb: Winter Regional Champs at Addington, Chad 6th in Elementary Open with 69.4%
19th Feb: Seb at Solihull got 73.7% in PSG and 69.7% in Inter 1 - his highest scores ever!
26th Feb: 1st and 2nd for Julius in the PYO class at West Wilts doing PSG and Inter 1 (his second ever), with 67.9% and 67.5%, again personal bests for him!
I really must admit I have never had such a good competition record, and putting all the hard work and hours of training aside, there is one thing I feel which has been absolutely fundamental to the success - a systematic and familiar warmup.
I have learnt from Emile that every time I ride Seb, I must start in exactly the same way. I have weekly lessons with him, but quite often I'll have to ride Seb without Emile there so he will tell me to always start how we do in the lessons. First quite steep leg-yielding in walk to get his joints and limbs moving, then easy forward trot around the edge of the arena, then trot leg-yields across the arena, some shoulder-in down the long sides, then canter leg-yields and shoulder-ins.
Seb is now 100% familiar with that routine and warmup, so when we do it he is confident, able to do the things that loosen his body up, and affiliates the routine with work-time, switching his brain on to me and starts to listen. When the warm up is finished and I have worked him through into both reins and reacting equally well off both legs, I can pick whatever movements I want to work on and he is ready for it. Often I will do canter half-passes, then to pirouettes or tempis, then some trot shoulder-in and half passes and finishing with medium/extended trots. Of course we don't do all of that every day though, sometimes only bits of it and sometimes we might cover all of it.
When I took Seb to Solihull Emile was able to stay and help me warm up which I was hugely grateful for, and he made sure I changed absolutely nothing - that I did exactly what I had done at home. It made a seriously huge difference. When Seb got a bit full of himself and opinionated (as he can be when competing), I strictly reinforced the exercise we were doing while warming up and he very quickly realised that we weren't doing anything different to every other day, and he went exactly like how he went at home. It was amazing.
|Chad at Regionals - saved by the familiarity of|
The one horse I haven't quite managed to forge a consistent warm-up with is Julius, because he kind of changes how he feels every day. Some days he may just need loads of transitions, and the next he will need to do a lot of shoulder-in and travers. I really felt the disadvantage of not having my "go-to" warm-up when I competed him on the 26th, as he went a bit inside of himself and lost confidence from being in a different environment. I felt that if I had some exercises he knew so well and exactly in which order, he would have started to listen to me and get his confidence back quickly to start working properly for the test. Instead, I had to pull every single tool out of my box, swiftly chucking each one away as it proved unsuccessful. Eventually we managed to pull something together to create a couple of decent tests but I do feel we can do a lot better.
So my advice to those that go out competing and want to feel more confident in their warm-up and therefore through their test, is create a solid warm-up you can ride through every day and make sure your horse is 100% confident with it. Guaranteed when the outside factors like a different environment, other horses, nerves, time-pressures, etc. come in, you have a fix-all tool in your tool box that brings your horse back to you and the job at hand.