8 thoughts riders might have when competitions resume

  • Is it just us or has this lockdown been the toughest of them all? The good news, though, is that competitions are back on the horizon again, with British Dressage (BD) and British Showjumping recently publishing their roadmaps for the season. While we’re all buzzing to get back out there with our horses, there’s sure to be a few of these thoughts running through your mind as you start to prepare for the season to get underway…

    1. “Will I still fit in my show jacket/breeches/boots?”

    The combination of a long winter plus strict lockdown has done nothing for most of our waistlines, and if your competition clothes are feeling a little on the snug side, we can assure you that you’re not alone. Don’t panic, though, it’s never too late to work on your rider fitness – and perhaps ask your friends if they have any suitable clothes you can borrow.

    2. “Help – my horse is still in holiday mode”

    It’s been tough to know how to structure a horse’s training and fitness regime over the past few months without any solid idea of when competitions might be returning, and plenty of horses have been enjoying some time taking it easy over the winter. That said, if you’re hoping to get back in action once it’s safe to do so, now is the time to formulate a fitness plan for your horse if you haven’t already.

    3. “I’ll never remember the dressage test/route to the venue”

    However well you think you have something ingrained in your memory, when you stop practising it for several months, you’ll need a refresher. Don’t wait until you’re halfway up the centre line to realise you don’t know which way to turn at C – get those test sheets out now and swot up. And maybe use a sat nav for that first journey in the lorry.

    4. “What if all my competitors have had a more productive lockdown than me?”

    It’s easy to feel as though everyone else has used lockdown to advance their training in leaps and bounds, while you could barely summon the energy to tack up on dark evenings. But while you might be expecting your opposition to burst into the warm-up looking like Charlotte and Valegro, the truth is everyone has had their own struggles with the current situation and every combination’s training moves at a different pace. Redirect your focus to you and your horse – and maybe ask for trainer recommendations.

    5. “I still can’t get a haircut – I’m going to look scruffy”

    With the planned restart of BD activity in England set for 29 March – and hairdressers not due to open until 12 April at the earliest, you can expect most people to rock up to the first event back looking a little worse for wear. We recommend doubling – or even tripling – up on hairnets on keep those wild lockdown locks under some sort of control.

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    6. “Why do I feel so nervous?”

    Feeling a little more nervous than usual after a break from competitions is completely normal. Try to mitigate this in advance  – opt to ride a test or jump a course that is lower than the level you were competing at in 2020, and book yourself a confidence-boosting lesson in advance. And don’t feel you need to rush to enter the first competitions in the post-lockdown calendar – wait until you feel ready. But also remember how much you might have missed that thrill of anticipation during lockdown, and try to embrace the adrenaline.

    7. “I’ve forgotten how to get up early”

    Those elusive weekend lie-ins every rider would dream about have certainly lost some of their appeal now they’ve become a little more normal. It  might come as a shock to the body clock to drag yourself out of bed pre-6am for your first post-lockdown show, so why not build yourself up to it by setting your alarm a little earlier each week in the run-up.

    8. “Get me to the burger van”

    There’s nothing quite like a show-day lunch, especially if it’s following a performance you’re proud of, so don’t deny yourself that dirty burger/cheesy chips/chocolate cake – hopefully on-site cafes will be providing takeaway options for you to enjoy back at your lorry, even if you can’t enjoy them while sitting down watching the action straight away.

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