Joey and I entered at A, and moved off crisply after the salute at X. I remembered to breathe, sometimes even very deeply, and used lots of quick half-halts to check in with him. Five minutes later we were halted square at G and our trainer Stephanie was beaming. The 26th practice was clearly a competition-worthy ride.
When I committed to riding our Second Level Test 1 at least 100 times before our first show I guessed that those many practices would make a difference but I couldn't say exactly how. Now I'm beginning to experience the impact of repeated practices:
- The test is deeply ingrained in me. Every movement comes without having to actively remember it. I can be fully present in each moment.
- That freedom from thinking allows me to work with Joey second by second through the five minute test. Joey and I are both living beings responsive to our environment and to each other (unlike a ball, racquet or golf club). Instantaneous tiny adjustments makes for a smooth and technically correct ride.
- Being able to breathe deeply relaxes both of us into the rhythm of the test. Judges are looking for harmony between horse and rider and breathing in sync with each other goes a long way towards that goal.
- Every practice has grown my confidence in my ability to show the best of my horse and my riding skills. I've already ridden in spite of dozens of noisy distractions, heavy wind, blowing trees and flying crows. There will be very little that I haven't experienced by the time I get to the first show.
I'm looking forward to the next 74 practices. The sky is the limit! What have you achieved after more extensive preparation than ever before? Share your stories in our comment box.