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Striding into 2017 – 1st stride being BD Regionals

2016 will be a year to remember – for the good and the bad.  Making a career move that I thought was a dream role to realise it was far from it, to then make the life changing move from employment and city life to being self-employed and a business owner and working in the equestrian world.  On the riding front we managed to get over some HUGE hurdles.  Jumping for the first time in over a year and later having a first jumping lesson in over 2 years!  For us getting back over a fence was a really big deal and it just felt so right, the timing and everything just fell into place.  But with the dressage… Theo has just gone from strength to strength, with 5 wins from 10 and always being in the top placings he’s certainly cemented himself as a dressage pony.

But what does 2017 have in store?  First stop is the British Dressage Regional Championships for the Novice Freestyle.  Sadly because of the schedules in this area we don’t have a warm up so will effectively going in cold, at a venue we’ve only been to once and with a floorplan and music we’ve only been able to put into practice twice in the last seven months.  So how are we preparing ourselves for what will be, unless we qualify for Nationals that is, our last Novice appearance.

We’re working on the incremental developments – yes we’ve been to a few sports psychology sessions!  We’ve reflected on our previous performances, we’ve analysed the videos and we’ve formulated a game plan.

Our weaknesses are consistently straightness and our medium trot, with canter being our biggest strength.  So our home training plan consists of lots of focus on straightness.  Having eyes on the ground to point out when we are slightly quarters in is really helping and working out that my hips are slightly out of alignment and need work has been key.  With the straightness in both him and me comes the medium – et voila!

However it isn’t quite that simple.  We could gain an extra half or whole mark in our transitions but making them crisper and more uphill, in our walks by using my seat and not my legs and in our artistry marks by making sure we are bang on the music.

So the plan?? The plan is making a plan, having a mental game plan, working on improving those small incremental goals so that we have an overall gain.  We’re focusing on the small, manageable wins, and hoping and praying that it turns into an overall win.

Physical planning and preparation is also key – working on a nutrition plan with Baileys and Protexin Equine Premium to make sure that he’s in the best possible condition to produce his best work, both in his fitness programme and in his competitive work.

So what I’m really saying is we’ve built ourselves a support TEAM.  A team of supporters, not just supporters like Forelock & Load (who are amazing and giving us a round of applause) but supporters like horse and human physio, sports psychologist, trainer to work us on the fundamentals, a performance coach to make the slight changes that can make all the difference, advisers on feeding and supplements and most importantly those supporters that are going to come and hold our hand when it matters.  Because we realised that that best way of getting to where we want to be, is together.

Sarah Skillin

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