dressage, dressage showing, schooling shows, warmup strategy

Butterfly Brain: The Enemy of Dressage

Sunday was my second schooling show of the season. Those of you who show every weekend probably can’t relate to the experience of re-entering the show ring after 7 years off. But perhaps you have some wisdom you can impart. I am sorely in need of wisdom.

Happily, Micah is a Show Master. He understands that (at our level), he’ll need to work hard for five minutes, then receive lots of praise. He’s not too worried about the judge’s box, decorative floral arrangements, or horses falling to pieces in warm-up. Thank goodness.

My previous horses have needed show warm-ups focused on relaxation and staying in the arena. If Micah relaxes any further, he’ll be dozing. My new warm-up strategy needs to be about waking him up and asking him to respond promptly.

Of course, that’s Part B of the strategy. Part A is me embracing the new strategy and rising to the occasion. Easier said than done, given that showing is exhausting, physically and mentally. Just running  from trailer to show office to warm up to show ring wears me out. And, while I’m not actively freaking out, there’s an app running in the background of my brain, wondering if I’ll be able to rise to the occasion mentally.

My mind flits like a butterfly, from thought to though.

In the arena, my mind flits like a butterfly, from thought to thought.

Lest you think I’m a slacker, I try to stay fit. I ride a horse, a mountain bike, hike, lift small weights, and do abdominal crunches to keep something of a core. Come show day, you’d think I was a complete couch potato the way my stamina stutters and fades. Mentally, I’m equally flaccid. My focus comes and goes like a butterfly in a poppy field. My mind flits from moment to moment. Focus/fade. Focus/fade.

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