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  • Virginia Shaw, BTB Trainer

Practice Relieves the Pressure

I recently headed to IEA Regionals in New Hampshire with the Midcoast Maine Equestrian Team. I have to admit, as I watched the kids get called into line for testing I thought to myself: “have I prepared these kids for this?”

How do you feel about your practice? What are the benefits of it? Do you feel like it has a purpose?

Admit it, at times practice seems tedious. So many simple exercises over and over again, and for what? Hopefully, practice relieves the pressure. When you are standing at the show ring gate awaiting your entrance, wouldn’t it be fantastic to be over prepared?! Of course it would! But how do you get there? PRACTICE. Practice is what takes away the nerves; it makes it so when the fear sets in and you are nervous to enter the ring, instinct takes over and you come alive. Here are some things to think about when you are practicing.

What would you improve?

When you are on the back of a horse, there is no way that everything will go smoothly. Evaluate. What parts of practice can you improve? What types of situations can you create to build your confidence and learn more about your horse? Personally, I feel like that is key. It is super important to know your horse’s buttons. I like to tell my students “always have plenty of tools in your tool box!”

Practice harder than you need to.

Progress will be more difficult to see if you don’t practice harder than you should. For example, if you are competing at a 2’3 level, you should be jumping 2’6. Practicing at a level above where you are comfortable allows for you and your horse to build confidence. This is also where it is helpful to have a good coach/trainer. Your trainer can build a training program around your level that pushes you while building confidence in your abilities.

Make uncomfortable choices.

If your lessons are going perfectly all the time, it is probably time for a change. I tell my students often, “If you are comfortable in your lessons, I am not doing my job right!” Lessons and practice are made to get you going; they are made to get you to push yourself to give you the confidence you need to reach your goals. Here’s a tip, make a list of the skills you feel you need to develop and start to tackle them one at a time. Keep in mind it’s about the process, not perfection. Some of the things you want to perfect, or learn more about, aren’t going to come easily. Sometimes failure will give you more clarity than getting it right. That isn’t a bad thing! Allow for the wrong, so you can learn to make it right.

With competition season right around the corner, now is the time to push your training outside the box and develop the skills both you and your horse need to tackle the arena with plenty of confidence!

Happy Horsin’


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