The Physical Preparation
There are many ingredients that go into a six-minute dressage ride. Finding the right physical program, in addition to the right mental preparation, is important. I ride a lot of horses every day, but I'm always working the same muscle groups. You don't get a lot of cardio when you're riding, so I changed my workout routine. I start off with stretches and I do the bike. Adding another workout is hard. After riding 15 horses and teaching lessons, when I come home, the last thing I want to do is get on a bike. Let's just say my day has become a lot longer!
You should also analyze your warm-up. It's not just for your horse—you have to have a routine as well. Everyone has his or her own unique ritual. My friend Christine Traurig puts on her show clothes in the morning even if she rides much later. I'm always trying to figure out ways to make my routine easier on the horse so that our results get better. You have to be open to adding and learning and improving. When you say, "I'm done," you're toast. You're never truly perfected, which is the nice thing about competing.
In the end, it's important that you trust yourself and your judgment. You don't want to be overconfident, but you have to believe that what you've changed or added will work. Rafalca's done a lot of growing up, but now I have many more tools to get myself ready for a big event than I had several years ago. I've learned a lot about my horse, about what I can add to my training and what I can do just for myself. I hope some of this works for you, too.
This article was originally printed in the April 2012 issue of Dressage Today. If you are interested in reading more articles like this, consider subscribing.