Top Tips to help keep my head in the game

Top Tips

At times we can really feel like we are on a motivation streak, that time period where you are focused, feeling refreshed and ready to take on a challenge head on. Which is probably one of the best feelings, especially being an equestrian!

But, as they say, ‘what goes up, comes down’. I’m not talking about the measurement of success by winning a dressage test at every competition for months on end then hitting a rough patch being knocked off your winning place.

I’m talking about behind the scenes, your usual day to day the stuff that keeps you motivated to jump out of bed every morning.

Now by all means, I am not a State or National champion rider. But I am amateur rider and I know how challenging it can be at times! Here are a few of my top tips that help me keep my head in the game and focus on my training and competition goals.

Sleep

Sounds simple. But it is one of the more difficult things to master and get into a routine! One wise person (my Mum!) told me once, it’s the hours before midnight that count. It is so, so true. Heading to bed at an early yet reasonable hour, even though you might not fall asleep instantly (unlike me, who falls asleep within minutes of my head from hitting the pillow!!), it’s great practise to hit the sack early. Getting into that routine early to bed early to rise. Even if you are giving your horse the day off or are planning to ride after work, it’s a great feeling getting up early and seizing the day – so to speak!

Nutrition

Now I call it nutrition, but I don’t want to call it diet. As diet to me implies just that, dieting, limiting or restricting the food intake. To be completely honest with you all, I’m not too sure what to call this part!

This has always been a yoyo with me. I eat great then not so great, then great again. I am no way qualified in this area, but when I start to get into the routine with my sleep, getting up early to kick arse in the day. I tend to eat ‘well’, by this I mean a decent amount of fruit/veg during the week. Less chocolate and less snacks during the day. Because let’s face it, we never feel like riding horses after we’ve had a Big Mac meal from McDonalds!!

Training Plan

I really enjoy scheduling out my week with the horses. From Monday – Sunday. I like to kick my week off on a Monday, I know some who enjoy Sunday being the start of the week…. (who are these people?!)

I map out on a white board in columns and rows with the horses I have in work with the week. I have letters symbolising lunging, riding, hacking and days off.  I know at the moment being winter, I’m not going to have much luck during the week after work. So, I usually plan my weekends both as riding days. At the moment (weather permitting) I usually plan around 3-4 days riding, with 1-2 lunge days and the rest days off. Riding during the week I usually keep them short and sweet and have longer rides on weekends when I can focus on a few areas.

I find by mapping it out and planning it really takes some stress off my mind, especially if I start panicking that I missed a day. I can just work around it.

Rest Days 

One of the most important things! Resting. Know when to rest, know when to take a day off, take a break. If you’re feeling stressed or burnt out, chances are so is your horse! If you really don’t want to take a day off, then go do something different. Trail ride or a nice hack out!

Of course, all these things work great when you get into a routine. Getting into a routine and making it a habit.

What are your tips for helping you stay motivated? Would love to hear them!

Team Standardbred

What it means to be an Amateur Dressage Rider

In this day in age in our wonderful world of our beloved sport of dressage, we are fortunate enough to see the beginnings of the recognition of an Amateur Owner Rider division. The beginning of a new competitive edge with our fellow ambitious equestrians who look up to our fellow professional riders within the game.

But firstly, what really is an amateur?

Well, when we type it into our search engine the first hit we discover the meaning defined as a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis’ my second hit reads ‘a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.’

Personally, I feel as though both definitions sell us short. Because we don’t train and ride full time doesn’t mean we are not passionate about our sport. It doesn’t mean we treat this sport as a hobby that we can just pick up and leave at any time. It is full time around the clock, looking after our beautiful animals that we always put first.

I like to call it a lifestyle choice instead of a hobby for this very reason.

Amateur Dressage rider

What does it really mean to be an amateur owner rider?
  • 5am starts to feed your horse/s, if you’re lucky to not hit snooze on your alarm 5 times and head out to the stables on time to actually have a ride before you have your first coffee and your real work day begins.
  • If by some off chance (or maybe 3 during the week) to hit that snooze button to only have time to go out and feed your horse before going to work. It really sets you in a crappy mood for the work day! Look out co-workers…. Keep the coffee coming.
  • To arrive at work looking like you have been partying all night to have bits of feed in your hair, to mix it up from that helmet hair you rocked the day before.
  • To arrive at work after having a horrible ride to be grouchy at everyone for the rest of the day.
  • Pretending to be busy at work while scrolling through your daily search on Nominate for the upcoming competitions.
  • Talking to your non-equestrian co-workers smiling and agreeing with their boring conversations to only be thinking about your ride that morning, what sale is on at the moment for the latest gear or if the weather is changing and if you put the right rugs on when you left them this morning.
  • Prioritising your wages for lessons and competitions. If you’re lucky perhaps After Pay that new bridle you have been eyeing off.  Then to pay the bills.
  • Getting home late after tucking your horses into bed with multiple carrots after telling them how perfect they are.
  • Arriving home after spending time at the horses just in time to miss out on cooking dinner. (or is that just me!? Conveniently have to have a shower when it’s washing up time too?!?)
  • Spending quality time with your partner watching TV after a day at work to only be focused on visualising  your dressage tests for that weekend or to mentally plan out our competition schedule for the month.
    • Take my advice, only pick your phone up twice during the TV show, otherwise they will eventually realise your mind is elsewhere! Cover blown.
  • Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep you visualise riding down that centreline and tracking left perfectly like in the 2A.

I think it is fantastic that the dressage organisers are rewarding us fellow amateur riders with our own division. Us, what some would call crazy– people who live and breathe the sport who go to this ‘other place’ for the majority of the day to pay for our passion. We live and breathe the sport much like our fellow professional riders. Who we are incredibly fortunate to be inspired day in and day out by their work ethic.

But let’s face it, this is our lifestyle. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How did Dressage Dreamers come about?

I was tossing up the idea of having a Facebook page dedicated to my horse Arniwho, as there are several similar pages out on Facebook people have created to share their own journey with their Off The Track Standardbred, from track to hack for example. However, I’m not follow a trend – more hang out in the background watching and listening to what is going on!

So, I thought honestly is had come a time to break into the Facebook crowd, show off my Standardbred and our dressage journey. Because we all feel like we are all that little bit different from each other but share the same goal in promoting our special horses to that big wide outside world.

I can admit it, I’m so happy I decided to take that leap to create my page “Dressage a Standardbreds Tale to Success” to promote MY dressage journey with MY Standardbred. Since creating the page back in October 2015 we have slowly built up our audience to just over 1,130 followers – which is amazing! Honest to god I never dreamed of having anywhere near that amount of people following our journey, the support shown through messages and on posts is incredible.

As I’ve opened our little world to everyone through the Facebook page I decided to go that one step further and have a website. It wasn’t until mid 2016 once I had the website running a little more I started putting thought to keyboard and writing about our training, competition and just everything in between. This is how my blog developed and I named it Dressage Dreamers… for the pure and simple fact I’m a dreamer! But hey, dreams do happen am I right !?!

As the months carried on I became a little more tech savvy in the website department and make the quick decision I need to revamp the website, I need it to look a-maz-ing, it needs to be A1! I must admit there were a few touch and go issues, a few “pour another wine to get me though” moments but I can proudly say the website is awesome. I still have a few things I would like to add and change over time to make it that little extra bit extra special. But for now it’s something I’m proud to have on display.

As I continue this wild dressage dreamers journey not knowing where it will take me, I have (like most things I do) slowly developed an image for Dressage Dreamers. My aim (for the moment) is to transition the website into a directory to have boutique, one of a kind, support small Australian businesses listed in all areas in the world of dressage. It is important to support our local equine industry, I suppose you could say my aim is to create a “hub” of information, from businesses, information, articles and everything else in between.  After all dream big, right?

For the moment I’m enjoying the journey, the website making, the positive meme sharing and creating on Instagram and Facebook, the training, sharing my dressage journey with my Standardbred, the writing, the competition riding, beginning of my EA Coaching course, the designing shirts and rugs to show off! Because this dreamer likes to look professional ?

 

Happy riding 🙂

The Competition Checklist

It might seem so simple to some but having a checklist before a competition could be a life saver! Well… for me anyway!

When I’m doing my daily (yes that’s right daily) scroll through nominate on the upcoming competitions, what is coming up soon to add to my calendar of events, tests that are lining up to the work I’m currently doing at home.

The different clubs and locations trying to see where I want to go for the tests on offer and the quality of the grounds. Of late I have become a little “fussy” on the grounds on where I compete my horses, Arnie I can take anywhere do anything kind of horse however, he is a little fussy on the grounds. I do enjoy the grounds that have sand arenas which also can be a negative if they are too deep for him to work in. So, you could say my daily scroll through nominate is a little limited on what I can enter.

What I like to have running in the back of my mind while I’m scrolling through is the grounds and what tests are on offer, but also if I enter that competition is that benefiting towards my dressage journey. Is this helping me achieve my goal?

I guess you could call this the beginning of my mental checklist.

  • Club location and the grounds of the competition
  • By entering this competition is this benefiting towards my dressage journey goal
  • The test on offer is what I am working on and achieving with our work at home

Arnie is currently competing EA novice, he has achieved so much. I’m super proud of him and we still have so much more to work towards. I’m 100% comfortable with the 2.1 and the 2.2 but if I see that 2.3 at the moment I go back to the events page and keep scrolling for another comp! The only thing now that I feel is holding me back is that bloody canter loop! The leg yielding with the two 10m circles I’m comfortable with. But that canter loop I feel the depths of Mordor open up ! I shouldn’t sell myself short…. Our canter loops are O.K…. However, we have much to work towards with these! Canter loop left and even our counter canter left, tick, tick. Happy days! Canter loop right and counter canter right… mediocre tick. Which is completely fine and acceptable with our training, it IS something we are working towards. Once we start becoming more confident and achieving our training goals there will be more things for us to achieve and become more confident in our work with.

So, once I enter the comp that I feel confident with I have the test diagram saved on my iBooks on my iPhone. Which I refer to about 20 times a day, I mentally ride the test while I’m on the phone to customers at work, I mentally ride the test while I’m drifting off the sleep at night and I even mentally ride the test while I’m driving around.  If I can’t mentally picture myself riding the test it just won’t happen for me. Visualisation is a strong powerful tool.

As the competition starts to get closer and closer I start to run through the daily list leading up. Two days before I like to have a good long ride really running through the tests and ironing out the kinks that I need to. Leaving that day feeling pretty good A+ workout. The day before the competition I like to have an ‘easy’ ride making everything I do damn achievable, I have this overpowering sense of perfection days leading up to a competition (I’m certain I’m not the only one 🙂 ) that’s why I came to the realisation that the day before needs to be a relaxing one, I’ve put in the hard yards leading up before I enter the competition, I’ve put in the hard yards once I’ve entered the competition, I have a strong feeling on what areas of the test I need to pay more attention too and ride better and more accurate.

It’s always the night before I feel a little stressed, bit flustered, it’s the day I clean my gear, pack the car, wash and plait Arnie. I’m bound to forget something ! Don’t worry I have! I like to visualise, when I’m packing the car I make sure I visualise all the gear I need for the day. Saddle – check, what else goes on the horse. Girth- check, saddle cloth – check, half pad- check, bridle – check.

This is why I have created (a very brief version) of a competition checklist, for all the dressage dreamers out there! Who are just like me  🙂 We are all here to help and inspire each other.

Please  CLICK HERE to download the checklist.

There will be more resources available soon for everyone to share. 🙂

 

Happy Riding 🙂

3 Things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

Arniwho_Standardbred

It has been an amazing journey so far with my beautiful Standardbred boy, but I STILL feel like I have yet so much MORE to accomplish!!  I PLAN to accomplish so much more! Remember no such thing as “I can’t” !

I swear every 3-6 months I look back and reflect on our training and progress, I feel like I know so much more in that 3-6 months then the prior 3-6 months… and so on…it’s a continuing cycle of knowledge.

I honestly feel that Arnie is that “one in a million” horse for me, I’m not talking about scores I see on the result board (that’s a bonus). I’m talking about the journey as a whole, I have never come across a horse that has taught me so much & shaped me into a better rider and still continuing to do so… Also, he has that  “I wanna be human” personality that brings a smile to the stables every day 🙂 Yep he’s pretty cute !

Arniwho_ Standardbred

So here are my three things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

1. Patience 
Yes patience, it might seem so simple… But patience! Teaching an individual his new career after racing in harness is exciting. BUT it also made me want to pull my hair out at times! In the early days when I just thought to myself… WHY, why can’t you just understand what I’m asking !?! It honestly can’t be that hard!?!
Why can’t you move your shoulders this way, why can’t you leg yield this way and why do you struggle so much cantering on this lead!?!
But as I have learnt over time bring it back to simple terms, simple to me means most effective!  Short and simple! After all it’s all NEW to him!
I have to say one thing to my fellow standardbred riders… DO NOT stress about the pacing, its natural. It’s up to you as the rider to teach them when to use it.
Think of it this way, I’m asking a question and he’s giving me a multiple choice answer. His first answer might not be correct but it’s up to me to let him search for the correct answer and reward.
It might take that little bit longer for him to understand how and why you want him to move his body in this way. But he will soon figure it out, the light will turn on, the penny will drop. It all takes patience, every individual is different, this goes for both horse and rider! Everyone has a different learning style. 🙂
2. Relax and enjoy the training and the progress
Relax, probably a thought far in the back of your mind when things are all going pear shaped. Those sloppy transitions, those pacing strides in between canter and trot…. But funny enough when you relax take that deep breath and think about what you are doing, the hose relaxes.  Just remember to SMILE, it helps 🙂 trust me ! He is only reverting back to what he feels is natural and what he feels is correct!
Thinking about WHY you are asking something and HOW you are asking.
Does he UNDERSTAND what you are asking, make it achievable & enjoyable.
Keeping the aims within reach each session and keeping it positive definitely helps boost his confidence.
For example for me at the moment leg yields and shoulder-ins. Don’t make it hard! Pick a few strides at a time, pick a line, choose an achievable angle, control the pace- keep the impulsion going in a positive way. There is always NEXT time round to start asking for more angle.
3. Reward, Reward, Reward!! KEEP IT POSITIVE !
I always want things to be PERFECT, it frustrated me not having everything “perfect”. . NOT everything is perfect really ate away at me…I use to dwell on my rides, It really did! All I wanted was perfection!  I wanted perfection without putting the hard yards in!HOWEVER as I have learnt over the recent years….nothing is PERFECT, no horse is perfect, no rider is perfect. You have to TRAIN and WORK HARD to make your self close to being perfection!I NEVER use to reward, crazy isn’t it. Such a simple training aid and I wasn’t even considering having it part of my riding!?! Needless to say I reward so much more now! As it has given me more positive results !Even the small things, for example an ordinary transition. Still ” gooood boy” followed by a pat, he tried.. the effort was there, the intention was there.
99% chance it was the rider (yes me!) not setting up and/or asking the transition correctly. As one wise rider (Charlotte, my idol) would say it’s the case of pat the horse slap the rider. BUT I will do the transition again, and again until we make progress or should I say I make progress and it reflects in the horse!?!
I ensure each time I make that effort to reward, rewarding to me is encouraging the horse, letting him know YES you are doing a GOOD job! You want to encourage him with his work, after all it’s a foreign language to him.
Riding isn’t suppose to be a chore, you are to enjoy the journey… otherwise how is your horse suppose to enjoy it!?
Happy riding 🙂
Arnie & I always enjoy a selfie 🙂
 Arniwho Selfie Standardbred