Anna Ross discusses competing in France and personality types at shows
RIDING a wave of inspiration after the National Dressage Championships in September, our team was keen to get back competing abroad again. With a nice show at Le Mans to attend in October, we packed up and made the trip across the post-Brexit water, albeit with many more forms to fill in than used to be the case.
I took Newton Domino to gain experience in her first year of grand prix and was delighted with her second place in the freestyle at her first ever international.
I’d long promised my head rider Beth Bainbridge a foreign international show in the small tour with Habouche, and she had great success. They were second on the first two days, then won on the third and had the wonderful experience of the national anthem playing to honour their achievement.
Second can be a tricky place to occupy; on the one hand one needs to smile and tell everyone how terribly pleased you are so one doesn’t appear a brat, and on the other, there is inevitable frustration. It’s fair to say that on day three Beth had had enough of being gracious in coming second, and she was absolutely determined to win.
Other Brits had a good show too, especially Mette Dahl and Bea Butterworth who had great results in the pony section. Lily Laughton represented the juniors with good scores and placings, but luck was not on her side when a steward face-planted in the area during her freestyle, putting paid to another top result.
Preparation is vital
GOING to France gave me the opportunity to learn about the French national competition rules, which I can confidently say would strike horror into the hearts of most British Dressage members. Only horses with known breeding can compete in affiliated competition, and competitors have to pass an exam before being allowed to compete at all.
Le Mans has a lively bar overlooking the arena, which gave me a chance to observe the different competitive psyches of the international field while having a post-test G&T. Personality types included the perfectionists, whom I avoid at all costs as even if they have won, they tend to stare glumly into their beer, determined to bore you with tales of what could have been.
Meanwhile, the extroverts are always committed to having a good time regardless of achievement. Being philosophical in the face of adversity and generally optimistic, they are ideal for having a pint with.
And the nervous personality types can be surprisingly good wingmen and women, as they sometimes have one or two to settle themselves down both before and after the great event. Their relief at having got it “over with” can lead to great parties afterwards, regardless of results.
When competing, it is important whatever your psychological “leanings” to have prepared well with faith in your process. The winning is really done at home in preparation and you don’t want to leave your medals at home because you have worked yourself into a state at the show.
The best dressage riders are like snooker players, setting up the next movement as they finish the one before, and that takes practice, a cool mind and organisation. Don’t panic if it doesn’t go to plan. Remember, form is temporary but class is permanent. Do the work beforehand and trust yourself on the day. If you are good enough, and consistent enough, success will come. If it doesn’t, analyse why, work on it and it will.
Being cool enough at a show to be the same person that you are at home equals a happy horse, fun and success. And if you are struggling, maybe consider having the G&T before rather than after.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 28 October
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