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Your Guide to Dressage Show Season Prep by Dr. Cesar Parra

There’s never such thing as too much preparation, especially when it comes to getting you and your horse ready to perform spectacularly during show season. Here’s a handy month-to-month list you can use as you take each and every step forward towards success. If you happen to work around different calendar dates, feel free to adjust them according to your pre-season and season dates. Good luck!

December: A time of relaxation and evaluation.

This is the perfect time to assess where you and your horse are at. Have both of you benefited from the downtime? Are you mentally and physically ready for what’s to come? Here’s when you should start thinking about what kind of work both of you should be focusing on moving forward.

January: Plans begin to take shape.

During December you started thinking in broad terms about what kind of work you want to do, but now it’s time to get more specific. Early in January, talk to your trainer about what level you should be preparing to show. By late January, you should be able to adequately perform every test run you want to show.

This is also an important month because it’s the time you should be renovating all your memberships, such as your U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF), U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF), and Group Member Organization (GMO).

February: Show dates are published; lock in those dates!

When receive the current Omnibus, begin to plan out your show season according to your region’s released dates and locations. If you haven’t received an Omnibus, get in touch with your GMO.

In terms of planning out your show season, there are several factors you should take into consideration. The most important thing you need to figure out is your individual goals. Depending on what they are, your plans can take many different forms. For example, if you want to qualify for regional championships, you must participate in at least two shows. Other elements to factor into your plans are calendaring (how many shows you want to do a month) and lodging (the sooner you book hotels, the better).

Because every region varies when it comes to dates, the best way to help you stick to this checklist is by assessing the time between your prep and your show. Let the countdown begin!

Two months to the show: Rules & Uniform

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this for, it’s important your read up on the USEF Rulebook, because believe it or not, some of these rules tend to change quite often.

You want to make sure you’re abiding by every rule, so when the day of the show comes, you’re not disqualified due to a tiny detail you simply didn’t know about. Moreover, attire is a big part of the rulebook. Not only should you make sure the attire fits the requirements, it’s also important that it fits your body. Try it on and test it out. You and your horse must be comfortable in it, or it could inhibit your performance.

One month to the show: Memorize dressage tests.

This month, the most important thing you need to focus on is memorizing your dressage test. Memorize everything; don’t leave anything to the reader.

Two weeks away: Ride your tests.

Now’s the time to ride your tests. Up until now you’ve probably been practicing pieces here and there, but now you take it from the top and ride the whole thing. Doing so will give you a much better sense of what to expect the day of the show and what last minute tweaks you should be working on.

One week away: Strategize this week’s schedule.

Plan out this week so that your horse peaks the day of the event, not earlier. By now you should know your horse better than anyone else. You know when he feels better and when he needs a break. So be very careful how you plan out the schedule during the week leading to the show.

At the show: The big day!

Hopefully you and your hose have worked really hard in the days leading up to today. Do your best, and don’t forget to enjoy every second of it!

Dr. Cesar Parra is the owner of Piaffe Performance, a premier dressage training facility in Whitehouse Station, NJ. For more information, please visit his professional website.