At my second ever riding club area competition, as a junior, I was asked to do a Novice test on Lily (as at least one team member was required to and no one else had come forward). This left me feeling sick to my stomach for the simple reason that I had never done a Novice test before. Thoughts circled around my head like ‘isn’t that what proper dressage riders do’ and ‘isn’t it a risk moving up a level when your team are counting on you’ but now I realise they were just limiting beliefs that were keeping me within my comfort zone.
I told myself to ride the prelim movements well, not to panic about the novice ones and I could get a respectable score (well that’s what my trainer told me to tell myself…) I was aware that I could well get 5’s for the medium trot because at that time medium strides of any sort were a complete mystery to me. To my surprise I did get a good score (65%) and 3rd place. I was thrilled. I just focused on myself and the best we could do, I really wasn’t thinking about getting placed anywhere. Taking the pressure off in that way was clearly the right thing to do, so I knew that I needed to keep that in mind for the future.
I didn’t do a championship at Novice level again until 4 years later because I truly thought that prelim was Lily’s limit, however after lots and lots of hard work on the basics, we mastered the medium trot and then we tried again (at the 2016 Sheepgate under 25’s championships). I had held this opinion about Lily’s prelim limit so strongly that the test I am writing about today had completely slipped from my memory up until the point I was racking my brain for blog ideas at the start of this week. My only regret, I wish had tried aiming for Novice competitions again sooner. I originally decided against it because I was too busy trying to find my next dressage horse. What I didn’t realise was that my best dressage horse was right under my nose the whole time! If you told me this time last year that Lily would be working elementary now, I would never have believed you!
Moral of the story: whilst realistic goals can be a good thing, don’t let them limit you. Keep working hard on the basics and push yourself to try new things. Only by getting out of your comfort zone can you grow, yes you might not win as often as before but you will improve as a rider. Not just in terms of knowledge but in that your focus will shift competing against other people to competing against yourself. Overall meaning that your focus is more on the factors you can control (you) than what you can’t (other people), which is vital for staying calm and confident during your test. Easier said than done I believe!
Thanks for reading