Managing expectations when showing horses

‘Managing expectations’ is not the most appealing phrase to lead with. Yet, after videotaping for a virtual horse show, it is the phrase that most frequently comes to mind.

During the last 10 days while I’ve been recording rides for the Western Dressage World Show I’ve also been reflecting on all the lessons it provides.

1) refined communication-The first and easiest for me to observe is the improvement in my refined communication with Presto. I’ve become more specific about what I want and Presto has improved because of it.

2) quicker transitions- The western dressage tests ask me to string together movements more quickly than I naturally practice them. I tend to trot several circles and lope several circles but in the test I’m riding Presto and I do 14 movements in 4 minutes!

3) speed of improvement- It has been fun to watch how the refined communication and the quicker transitions have worked together to greatly improve Presto’s speed of improvement. He has gone from feeling rushed on the first ‘test ride’ of the pattern to feeling confident on the last video attempt.

But he is not the only one who has changed.
I could feel myself relaxing as we continued to practice.
That’s when I realized what was happening.
This isn’t my first time showing a horse. In the past when I’ve had a young horse I’ve seen a very similar learning curve but it has been spread out over months instead of weeks.

On the surface it might sound like spreading things out over months is a better idea but for this specific scenario, I think it is a benefit that it is happening in a short time because what is REALLY HAPPENING is that I’m learning how to manage my expectations.

In ’real live’ showing it is normal for the horse to improve from May to September. Your expectations at the September show are probably higher than at the May show. This can lead riders to feel pressure to constantly train, constantly improve, and never accept the stage of training they are truly at.

With this virtual show, I’m able to ride the test a few times and it is easier to evaluate the stage my horse is at. That means that if lead departures are currently challenging for him because he lacks strength, coordination and practice…I will see that reflected consistently in the videos. In this way, I think the virtual shows will teach many riders how to accept the current stage they are at with their horses.

The hardest thing for me to accept has been the mistake I make when riding the tests. It’s hard for me to realize that my horse was giving everything and I made a mistake in piloting him. On several recordings I’m so focused on the movement I’m completing that I make a mistake transitioning to the next movement. Those are the tests I’m more likely to try recording again…if time allows and I don’t think it is too much to ask of the horse on a given day.

Again, another lesson in managing the expectations…this time the expectations I put on myself.

What I have learned so far from entering these virtual show is that I hope they keep doing them in some format (and that I need to install more lights in the corners of my indoor riding arena).

In a ‘normal’ year my show season is coming to and end…but true to the strange nature of 2020…my show season might just be getting started!

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I’ve owned Presto now for four years. He has grown so much and I’m finally ready to start sharing his adventures. You can find all of his posts on my website (stacywestfall_com_)
What questions do you have for me about Presto?
#PressonRegardless #Presto #Equithrive

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