Why are horses different in the test?

Thanks to the feedback of my gorgeous super Dream Team star Renee, I am talking this week about why is it that the horse is different in the test?

So that’s the question – Why is the horse different – Why, Why, WHY!?!?!? I like to ask a better quality question – How do I embrace that my horse is different in the test, and make it work and use it to my advantage?!?!?!? Ya, cool question!!!! :):)

Firstly – not all horses are different! Some horses are better! I know myself that Abe sometimes feels better, but other times worse and I KNOW it will always be different and always unknown what I will get on the day!!! I have done over 200 tests on that horse and I can personally guarantee not one of them has been the same as another! 🙂

Going to a competition is so much fun, because you never know exactly what you are going to get! … What a Forrest Gump quote – “Life is like a box of chocoaltes, you never know exactly what you are going to get!” Yes! Cross out life put the words “A dressage test” and thats pretty much the point! 🙂

First you have the warm-up:

  • You have to share the arena with other horses, you may not be able to turn when you like, or do a transition when you like, you may have horses going crazy next to you … or you may be the one with the crazy horse!!! 🙂
  • You can’t control the environment – at Werribee, sometimes we have people training on the cross country course, or playing polo. I know my dressage horses LOVE that, and think man rather than extended canter, why don’t we go for a real gallop?!?!? Um… because mum doesn’t EVER, EVER want to go any faster than an extended canter – that’s why!!! 🙂
  • I don’t know about you, but for me also I need a few minutes to get accustomed to the clothes, the boots are weird, the breeches are tight – why are white breeches tighter than black ones? My tails are all getting caught up and my gloves feel different to normal.

Then you have the walk to the ring, you also have gear check, then the timing – is the ring running late, yes by 20 mins, so keep the horse warm but not tired, ahhhh!!!! 🙂 Yep… LOVE it!!! 🙂

So you can see the first reason why our horses feel different at comps … IT IS DIFFERENT!!!! 🙂 There are more external factors that are not in our control, there is timing issues, space issues, clothing issues … I know I’m harping on the clothing one, but it is really weird for me!

Ok after all that we have mastered all that, and we are trotting around the ring, and the bell goes, yes… and you have entered that twilight zone of not in the test yet, but so close, so you can’t fix anything now, for me it’s the whole – ok now or never, you have to be on.

And seriously this is my normal thoughts in tests as I come down the centreline… Ok straight straight STRAIGHT! dammit! Ok… now 1/2 halt, 1/2 halt, 1/2 HALT… HHHAAAALLLLLTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stay still, stay still, stay still, ok now GO! Impress, get it, get it, get it.

To me quite rambling advice! As I have written that, I have actually gone into the state which I am in down a centreline, and my heart rate has jumped – I can feel my heart beating in my chest, my nerves are twanging against my skin, and everything is on high alert, I hear more, feel more, and sense more of everything!

Haha so fun!!!! But anyway back to this.

Yes – so you’re in a test, that means NO MATTER WHAT you MUST do the movements as they come up, no 10m circle, no s*%# I’ll do that again, no – oh hang on I’m not ready yet! You’re on baby and you have to perform! So again – why is the horse different in the test …. BECAUSE TEST riding is DIFFERENT!!! :):)

SO – Why is your horse different at a comp and in a test? Because it is different! Everything is different including you. Yes you are!!! Everyone is, even if you don’t get nervous which I don’t. I really don’t! I LOVE to compete and I feel super doing it, but I still enter a zone of hightened awareness, hightened electricity, and I am still constantly working on getting ME better. Controlling my thoughts… sometimes I think of dinner in the middle of a test!

Controlling my body, sometimes my body does weird things like jams my legs on more than they need to. I’m just so desperate to get the canter, that I override it. So it’s a constant learning and mastery of me too! Because yes – everything is different, but so is everything the same. It’s you and your horse, in your bubble, having fun, going for a pony ride. Sometimes I giggle at the absurdity of it all. Strip it all away and it’s you and your horse – so focus on that, and you will be half way there to mastery of this.

To Your Success,

Natasha Althoff Signature


p.s Dream Team 2012 is getting ready to launch applications in September! Can’t wait to chat to you then 🙂

p.p.s. If you are a member of Your Riding Success, click here to read further how to master the competitions.