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BLOG: The three biggest mistakes riders make in competition

Natasha Althoff Your Riding Success May Blog

© Natasha Althoff


Hi riding superstars!!

How are you doing? How is your riding going? Do you have competitions planned for this year? Or is there something holding you back from taking the plunge and entering a competition?

I have just sat down and counted it all out… I have competed in over 2,000 dressage tests! So I feel like I have a lot to share with you to make competition more enjoyable, clearer and so that you understand the in’s and out’s of what you and your horse need to do, which ultimately to more success for you at competition!

There are 3 main areas that I consistently see riders make mistakes in during their competition:

1.  Rushing the test

Have you ever ridden a test and you feel like it is on fast forward? I feel that for many people, because they are not used to the test environment and they don’t learn their dressage test enough, that they end up being too concerned with where they are going in the test as opposed to how they should be going in the test.

Don’t get me wrong - I have a GPS voice telling me where I should be going and looking at my markers for accuracy. But I am also getting feedback from my body and my horse - is the horse through, forward, connected, is the contact there, is the horse more on the outside rein…?

My brain is a lot more focused and concentrated on getting the horse where it needs to be and preparing for the next movement, than it is for knowing the test.

It’s really important that if you are feeling like it is rushed, that everything is on fast forward - that you slow the test down in your brain and make sure you learn your test properly.

2. Riders don’t prepare for movements

The secret to competing - you have to prepare!!!! Use the corners - they are your lifesavers in a test.

When you are prepared before and during the test, the test doesn’t feel so fast and everything is where it needs to be. When you are preparing and using the corners you are also aware what movements are coming up next rather when they are right on top of you.

3. A bad warm-up

The next biggest mistake that I see riders make when they are competing is before they are in the competition ring - it’s in the warm up.

When I say “warm-up” in competition most people freak out because there is so much uncertainty - what other horses are in the warm up, are there any crazy horses in the warm up, maybe your horse is horse shy, gets tense around other horses or is not used to so many horses around when you are riding.

When you are more concerned with what is going on around you - what the other horses are doing, who is on the warm up ring with you and so on… when did you focus on your horse? When did you give the horse any guidance? When did you work on suppleness and throughness, getting the horse where you needed to go?

Then you go into the ring and compete a poor test… and blame the horse!! No!! You didn’t warm the horse up properly so it was your fault!

The first thing you need to remember is - you belong in the warm up arena. You paid your entry fee, you are allowed to be there. There is no one there better than you - there may be better riders there than you, but there is no one better than you, and there is no one there who owns or deserves more warm up space than you.

The next thing you need to remember is - which hand is your left hand? If you are in a warm up and a rider comes towards you - you need to pass your left hand to their left hand - so you will be on the left of someone, and they are going to be on the left side of you.
The only exception to this rule is if you are doing a free rein walk - then you can get out of everyone’s way and take the inside track.
Look up!! Make sure you look up so that you can see what is going on with everyone else in the arena.

Don’t concentrate on what anyone else is doing, who is in your warm up other than to be aware that they are there and left hand to left hand if you need to get out of someone’s way.

All my worst tests that I have done normally come back to a poorly prepared and lack of attention in the warm up. All of my best tests have come when I have done the best warm up. It is my job to get my horse through, soft, connected, forward, supple and with me in the warm up so that I can get the best out of my dressage test.

If you need more help in understanding warm up, learning the dressage tests and understanding competitions, I would love to invite you to join my FREE online workshop “Competition Success Online Workshop”. The problems described above of rushing the test, not preparing for movements and having a bad warm up can normally be linked to competition nerves and anxiety, not knowing your dressage test well enough and not mastering your warm up. In this free workshop, I will teach you how to overcome competition nerves, how to effortlessly learn your dressage test so you remember it every single time and how to master the warm up arena so you are prepared to do your best test.

I really want to share the secrets with you and give you the tools you need so you can accelerate your competition results and really get the fun back into competing!!

You will also receive as part of this free workshop - your very own warm up plan, an MP3 audio to listen to while you ride, strategies to overcome competition nerves and enjoy competing again, tools for creating the perfect warm up… and the secret to remembering your dressage test flawlessly every time!!

To register now for the free workshop go to www.yourcompetitionsuccess.com - we will be kicking off on the 16th March :)

Have a super day!

To Your Success,



Did you enjoy this blog? Check out her video that explains it in more depth!!




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