March 30th will be our first show in a very long time. I’m getting started early. While it’s intimidating to prepare for competition without lessons and without a trainer, I trust my mare. Isn’t that what dressage is all about? A partnership? We’re in this together, for better or for worse.
We began learning USDF Intro Test A this week. As the most basic of all dressage tests, the movements are straightforward. But like other adult amateurs, life’s distractions can enter my brain at any moment, sabotaging the memorization process. Luckily, I was prepared. By focusing on my mare’s feet, I shut out the rest of the world for 30 minutes. Here’s how:
I read the test three times before getting on. During the warm-up, I focused on transitions: halt-walk, walk-trot, trot-halt. As I came down the center line at trot, my mind was on my mare’s feet. She came against the bit and her hind end swung left. On any other day, I would have corrected her. But this time, I intentionally ignored the evasion. Her feet kept the one-two trot rhythm, so we continued down the center-line. At X, I asked for walk. We headed right and she cut the corner, but her feet fell in a consistent 1-2-3-4. I rode the whole test this way. And then repeated the process twice more.
Yes, I allowed position, impulsion, obedience, and precision play second fiddle. And maybe in doing so, I failed to address issues we will need to fix before the show. But by keeping “half-halt,” “yield,” and “leg” out of my mind, “laundry,” “conference call,” and “email” stayed away too. I can now ride Intro A in my sleep. And by staying mindful for 30 minutes, I’ve got the time and mental freedom to perfect the rest.
What are your helpful tips for a successful dressage test? Share in the comments below.