Equestrian Life
Lyndal's Top 5 Tips

Lyndal's Top Five Tips

images & story © Lyndal Oatley & Margreet Schouren
1. Basics, basics and more basics
We all cut corners and want to learn quicker and do the harder movements as soon as possible, often neglecting the basics. In saying this, everyone probably already says that they've done this. But, one of the differences I have seen between the good riders and the great ones is a strict focus on the basics. I have never ridden more basics than I have over the last four years, and I still do not do enough.
Ask yourself a very basic question. Namely, 'can I ride?' This question should cover the following:
• Can I ride in every tempo easily?
• On every line, through corners in the correct bend and in balance ?
• In a lower, longer frame; a medium frame; a deeper frame without tension or; a competition frame?
• Do every conceivable transition in a correct frame and with refined aids?
The next question is whether your horse is responding to the first aid which is light and guiding and not strong and forceful?
Can I warm up without a whip? The over reliance on this form of aid is quite amazing. My question to you is that if you need a whip and big spurs in a warm up, then how on earth are you going to do it in the arena? Riding is for me more about fine-tuning your own aids. I break my aids into three components - a soft one and then if this is not effective, a medium aid. If that is still not effective, then a quicker, more effective aid with the positive response rewarded immediately. Only pick up a whip if needed in that moment and then put it down. It is not an extra appendage . Through repetition and use of rewards to encourage a positive response, you will ride with much more feel. And, if you have a horse that is perhaps a bit more dull, try to ride in a normal spur - that is, one without a rowel in day to day training. Then use one with with a rowel the day before your test and then during the test itself. This will result in you having better effectiveness with these spurs and consequently won't make your horse dull to the aids in the process.
Lyndal Issue 10
2. It is okay to make mistakes
I have learnt more from my less than impressive rides than those that I have ridden well. I have often been 'questioned' about my decisions to ride in certain competitions in the past because the fields were too hard, or the environment was too difficult. But, I learnt more from these experiences than from any other and while the scores from such events where not glorious, I left knowing so much more. The next time I was in that situation I knew how to handle it. A perfect example is with my Jazz Potifar. I rode him in Aachen several years ago and he was overwhelmed by all the clapping. In Aachen all the sound seems to filter into the arena more so than any other show I went to. I left knowing I needed to help 'Pot' feel more brave in this situation. So, I decided to try and trigger a positive response whenever he hears clapping. After he performed a good movement in training I would pat him on the neck loudly. As time progressed, the loud patting became less of a problem and when he heard clapping in the arena after some time he was not so quick to flee. He will always be more sensitive to sound and I am cautious of this, but now he feels much braver.
I came into this sport with very little experience in the Dressage arena - riding only three horses in Australia in competitions up to and including small tour over several years, before throwing myself in the deep end in Europe. I knew I had probably the least experience out of any rider when I went to European CDI's, but I would rather compete against the best and learn this way, than to go to smaller shows and do the miles. So, sink or swim and learn as you go. Every ride is an opportunity to learn more, so when the day and moment comes you can handle it like a pro.
Lyndal Issue 10
3. Stay positive, trust in yourself and be productive when using social media
Only you know how hard you work, what you stand for and deep down, what you want to achieve in our sport. However, while you may know it, those around us can negatively impact our focus, concentration, self esteem and belief in ourselves. We have all been down this road. It’s not fun and all I can hope is that your face doesn't end up on the front cover of a daily newspaper .
How do you deal with such negative influences? Zone out, don't read it - although you will and you will regret it. Have a great support crew around you, remember someone's mother you have never met does not know you. Smile, ride and avoid talking about it and do the best you can. Train yourself to utilise these influences in a positive way. Those around you can be misled, misinformed, or simply not like you, but you don't ride to please them or to defend yourself. You ride for you. Ride because you love it- you know what you want to achieve, so aim for it and be true to yourself and what you stand for.
Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter - plus forums - are also creating so much negativity these days, based on fact or fiction, so I beg of you to think twice before writing something about other people. Yes, we do read it, or hear about it and yes, it effects us. It may or not be true. Sometimes, it is better to smile and get on with it than defend yourself or those around you. If you have the opportunity, be brave enough to ask that person about the issue at hand privately, or perhaps rethink what you comment on. Often the whole truth is not portrayed and you may regret what you write or say. Think before you click and be a good sport. 
Many riders from home and abroad are on Facebook. I am more than happy, and often do, give advice and insight when asked as I think this provides a unique opportunity to connect with people you don't cross paths with every day. Take advantage of this form of media and contact riders that you think can help you with something and simply ask them a question through a message. I can't guarantee all will write back, but most are more than willing to pass on some knowledge to help someone else.
4. Find a trainer that fits you
I have trained with many different trainers and all have taught me valuable lessons that are still used. However, when I came to Germany, I sat on a horse owned by my husband and trainer, Patrik Kittel (and, Swedish Olympian) and felt the most amazing sense of balance, self carriage and power in its most subtle form and I was mesmerised. Thankfully, Patrik agreed to train me and now he is my husband, so he has no choice but to continue training me. However for me, Patrik filled the gaps in my riding that I was aware of. I rode with a lot of strength and containment and with Patrik I learnt to ride with more feeling and sensitivity. It is really important to find a trainer who can help you develop. Sometimes this can take trying different trainers to find just what you need to make you tick. This is okay. Trust me, to find the right trainer is like finding a massive light bulb 'Ahhh' moment. Find what works for you and your horse.
With regard to training for horses, people often ask me what technique I use. There is no simple answer as every horse is different. As riders, we must be able to adapt to whichever horse we are riding to help develop the partnership we have with them as individuals. No two horses are the same, so how can one riding style be chosen totally over another to ride every one of them? For instance, with Jazz Potifar I ride many more variations in frames and changes in tempos as he is hot and has a tendency to be shorter in the frame. I must know how to ride him so I can maintain a good competition frame and manage his energy in the arena. With Sandro Boy, I focus much more on transitions and straightness, as well as varying tempos as he is still developing strength.
5. Don't forget the road that gets you to your goal
I was a show rider before becoming a Dressage rider and also did some cross country and a lot of pony club. No matter which discipline you come from, you develop an advantage that is perhaps unique to that discipline. For me, hacking taught me to not only present myself and my horse unlike any Dressage rider (that did not begin their career in Hacking) I have ever met, but it also taught me how to have a good competition mentality, deal with nerves and stay focused. 
People often ask me about my nerves. To be honest, I thrive on the atmosphere that comes with the bigger competitions. This did not come naturally and I have taken a lot of what I learned in hacking and utilised it in Dressage. Also, anyone who has been around a ring at a Royal show knows about tactics and people trying to push your buttons. This form of mental chess also exists in Dressage and I have been put in positions I think the 'Diva's' did not think I could handle in the warm up arena. 
This article first appeared in Issue 10 of Equestrian Life - pick up the lastest edition to read more.




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© copyright. Equestrian Life. Wednesday, 19 February 2020