Top 15 Tips for Show Ring Success from Marcus Fyffe Dressage

Written by: Annan Hepner
Client: Marcus Fyffe Dressage
Release Date: 2017-01-13

1. Do not expect your horse to be better in the show ring than he has ever been before: Compete at a level under which you are schooling at home. You need to set yourself up for success so it is a positive experience for both horse and rider. You want to gain confidence in order to become a more effective rider.

2. Be prepared and organized: Follow a check list to ensure that you complete all the tasks needed prior to the show so you do not forget any vital items. You should not be stressed about forgetting anything the day of your test.

3. Dress rehearsal: When it is one week away from the show practice your test from start to finish to find out where the weak areas are. This gives you enough time to practice those movements rather than find your weaknesses in the warm-up before your test or when you are in front of the judge.

4. Break in your tack: Wear the exact same tack you will wear at the show at least a week prior to riding down centerline. This includes your boots, bridle, bit, saddle, etc. You do not want things to feel different for you or your horse.

5. Time everything: You need to know how long it takes to braid, groom, tack up and head from stabling to the warm-up ring. How long do you need to schedule your warm-up? If you work backwards from your ride time in your hourly schedule, you will ensure yourself plenty of time to be able to do a great job at everything without feeling rushed.

6. Be picture perfect: Set yourself up so that people take you seriously when you go down centerline. Polish your boots, check that all your leather keepers are tucked in and wear bright white breeches and a saddle pad. Show the judge a professional picture at any level and at any horse show. The better you present yourself, the more confident you will feel about what you are showing the judges. It’s not only respect for the judges, but it shows that you have respect for yourself and your horse — take yourself seriously as competitors.

7. Be selfish: Know what it takes for you to get in the zone. Don’t be afraid to communicate your plan with your friends, family, staff or owners who are around you on the day of the show. Some people thrive on having a large support group around them, while others need quiet time to concentrate on their test.

8. Don’t win the warm-up if you want to win the test: In the warm-up, look for the edge — how much can you push in your mediums? How small can you make your pirouettes? Look for the mistakes in the warm-up so that you do not push too far in the test.

9. Follow the rules in the warm-up: Do your best to make the warm-up experience as seamless for yourself and everyone in the ring. All the riders are in the same situation as you. If someone cuts you off, be considerate to their mistakes. Do not let another rider’s error distract you from your end goal in the warm-up, and do not let any of your errors be a distraction for another rider’s warm-up. The courtesy goes both ways.

10. Practice the first centerline: In the warm-up, right before you head in the ring, practice your first centerline, halt and trot off. That is when you will be the most nervous in the test, and where your simple mistakes will occur. If you practice in the warm-up, you can hopefully get your mistakes out there so that you are not having them in the ring.

11. Keep focused: When you leave the warm-up and you ride around the show ring, don’t let yourself or your horse lose focus. Don’t transfer a different feeling from one ring to another. Take a deep breath, concentrate and do the best you can that day.

12. Be inspired, not intimidated: If you compete in Wellington or any championship, you will have the opportunity to ride beside and against some of the best riders in the world. It can often be an intimidating experience for many riders. Spend time to watch their high quality performances, enjoy the competitive environment and gain inspiration instead of allowing yourself to be stressed or distracted. You paid the same entry fees as they did, and you have the same right to compete as they do. Enjoy the ride!

13. Wear your poker face: When you ride down centerline, make eye contact with the judge and concentrate on your ride. If you have a mistake, do not show frustration on your face or in your position. The test usually looks better than it feels, so don’t tell the judge or the spectators how terrible you think you are doing by your expression. Do not acknowledge the mistakes and continue on through your test.

14. Stay hungry: Let the mistakes in your test make you hungrier and motivated to rack up more points in the next movement. Do not dwell on the mistakes, and try to immediately refocus on how you can improve the next movement. The difference between first and fourth place is usually less than one percent, so keep scrounging for more points.

15. Positive reflection: No matter how well you perform in the test, the end result is you will either win or you will come away learning something. Regardless of the outcome, you will learn aspects about your riding, your horse and how to improve your performance for the next time you head down centerline.


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