It is time to draw some conclusions. So far in this series I have looked at the benefits as well as the downsides of riding to win versus chasing perfection (if you haven’t read the previous blogs, read them here). Now it’s time to bring all our learnings together and to come up with a strategy you can apply and follow all on your own. I’ll start with a quick recap of what we have learned so far, just to warm up your memory. Then I’ll explain how to prepare for those perfect, winning rounds.
What we have learned so far
Aiming to ride a perfect round where horse and rider become one, where every obstacle is taken effortlessly and where the same rhythm flows from start to finish, comes down to great detail and practice. Training and aiming for this harmony is what makes us better riders and should always be our goal. Similarly, when going for the win, thinking, turning and reacting faster should also be something we train. This way, when we are able to go all in, we know what we can and cannot do, and we have more confidence in our quick thinking and jump-off abilities. So preparation and training are the key takeaways here.
Preparing for success
What I have learned from interviewing some of the most successful riders in showjumping, is that they do exactly that. Chasing the podium is something they have been preparing for long in advance. And you can too. The more prepared you are, the more you can focus on execution when at the show. So let’s set you up for success.
Step 1. Why you want what you want
First of all, make sure you know why you are aiming for perfection or victory, especially if tend to always go for one of these two approaches. If you, for example, always chase that beautiful, smooth round and avoid taking risks, this might be a sign you are too focused on perfection and not allowing yourself to make mistakes and, with that, becoming a better rider. Riding to win is part of competing too, so instead of riding to avoid mistakes, ride to ride great!
Step 2. Make a clear plan
Now that you are aware of your options, take the time to prepare for your next show season. Perhaps there is a specific event or show you want to perform well at? First consider, with your trainer if necessary, whether your goal is achievable. If your goal is realistic yet challenging for you and your horse, then go for it! If you prefer to focus on a more consistent season instead of aiming for one event, that’s fine too!
A rider who clearly embodies planning and working towards specific goals and shows, is Cian O’ Conner. He explains: “I think with a goal you shouldn’t be afraid to aim high. However, you have to be realistic too. There’s no point in someone with no experience saying, ‘I am going to the Olympics next year.’ Instead, aim to go there in eight years. You pick your target and don’t be afraid to aim high, then work back from it.”
“Chasing the podium is something they have been preparing for long in advance.”
Step 3. Work backwards from there
Once you have decided what you’re aiming for, start planning backwards from there. What do you need to train and work on to be able to achieve your goal?
Make sure that along the way you keep listening to your horse. Keep checking in to see if your horse is still up for the challenge and improving or performing according to plan.
Step 4. Stay flexible on your journey
With horses, it’s always tricky to plan, so stay flexible along the way. If your horse is giving you feedback that he or she is not ready yet for the next step, or to take that inside turn, then wait! Give your horse the time it needs. Another great example from Cian: “Imagine you want to jump the world championships and one of the mini goals is a particular show six weeks before, but you arrive there and the ground is diabolical, then you don’t risk the bigger goal. You scrap that one. Don’t be afraid to be strong. You have to always keep the bigger picture in mind.”
Photo by Sportfot on Noelle Floyd