Five things to get you ready for the eventing season
Jonathan Chapman shares his tips on how to best prepare for the eventing season ahead.
Whatever your feelings about the last eventing season, now is the time to sit down with your coach and make an honest assessment of where you are and what you want to achieve this year.
Set your eventing goals
I’m not an advocate of specific goal setting – such as: “I must do a three star by the end of the year.” – as this is often a route to disappointment. I advocate ‘tiny attainable tickable targets’ – goals that relate to skill sets, not destinations.
Review your eventing performance
A detailed review of video footage of dressage tests while reading the judges’ comments will reveal your persistent faults. It may be your ring craft, accuracy of riding, or your position is making you look stiff and ineffective.
Our perception of our riding and the reality are often different things. This forensic analysis can also be applied to show jumping and cross country.
Try new training
None of us is the ‘complete’ rider. There are always ‘tools’ that can be added to our kit and skills that can be acquired or honed. Over the years, I had several different coaches for each discipline who delivered their messages in different ways. I’m not advocating swapping trainers altogether, but a series of pre-season lessons with a different coach can be invigorating.
Focus on each phase
Combine training and competition where possible to perfect a skill. Winter is a great time to gain practice and exposure without the pressure of having to achieve a result, which can adversely affect our riding.
Winter show jumping is a great way to improve your technique. Pure show jumpers may be able to jump another class if one round goes wrong – they can also jump every weekend without it putting so much strain on the horse. Winter is a time when you can replicate a bit of what the show jumpers do and get better at this phase.
You can apply a similar approach to the dressage phase. I believe the ability to breathe correctly has a massive impact on dressage performance. When we concentrate really hard we tend to hold our breath or take shallow breaths. This affects us physically and mentally. Doing dressage and show jumping during the off-season with lower pressure allows the rider to focus on maintaining a regular breathing pattern and looking up!
Improve rider fitness for the eventing season
One area that is often overlooked is the rider’s own physical ability. There is still time to make an impact on your fitness before the start of the season, but work on rider fitness should also be continued throughout the season too.
Core stability is so essential to good posture on the horse and effective riding. Riding alone may not be enough to achieve what’s needed. If you can, it is well worth working with a good personal trainer who can identify your asymmetries and weaknesses and help you target them. Things like yoga can really help with breathing, calmness and control.
Whatever you choose to work on over the winter, I wish you well with it.