Why the national championships?
Goals are personal and what matters to each rider really does depend on their own experiences. For me, competing successfully at the National Dressage Championships has meaning because when I first started proper dressage training a few years ago it seemed ridiculously unlikely that I would ever be good enough to be able to do it.
My anxiety around competition was never really just about competition. It was a fear of the unknown, of lack of control, of new things. It started when I was a small child and if I was anxious about something I would feel sick and nervous. Things like exams, trying new things, bus trips. Over time it got worse and I was anxious before things I was actually looking forward to. The anxiety in turn caused illness as I have a sensitive stomach anyway so it got to the point that I was anxious of being anxious. I missed a lot of things because of it – sleep overs, the first day of pony camp, scouting trips. I was afraid to look forward to anything. My poor mother was tormented by it and had the patience of a saint at times especially when it came to high stress events such as the leaving cert (which I did on three Valium and about seven packs of polo mints a day). I managed miraculously to compete on horses as a teenager and adult. It was hard going – I used to meditate on the way over to try and calm myself down (yeah I was the odd ball), couldn’t eat and would be white as a sheet before a competition and exhausted afterwards.
1.Being Stirrupy Mcstirrups
Checking your stirrups before you ride, changing them after warm up, changing them before you jump – this is all grand and expected. Turning in in a group lesson sixteen bajillion times to change them though – no, just no.
- Get used to being on a circle. You won’t be moving sideways at the greatest of ease any time soon. The circle is your friend, embrace the circle. Don’t go large around the arena – this does not go down well. If you have enough grasp of spatial relations to be able to ride a circle that is circle shaped (unlike me) this is a bonus.
Hail to the bystanders
Always waiting to say
You shouldn’t be riding
Your horse in that way
Always ready with advice
When you fall to the ground
Although their only riding experience
Is reading horse and hound
When I was in school, the highlight of every week was riding a big chestnut mare called Jenny. Jenny got arthritis and in an effort to help the yard to treat her I started researching what could help. This was long before the days of being able to buy ready made and mixed herbal remedies for horse aliments in Ireland but after reading everything I could get my hands on I found a shop on Georges street in Dublin that had a wall full of A – Z herbs. The lovely man who owned it was fascinated by my use of the products for horses and became a big help. I started mixing tailored herb mixes for the big mare and for horses belonging to friends. These mixes helped and to this day I have remained fascinated by how the plants and herbs that we can so readily avail of can help to heal. There are many herbal remedies that can be used and I would encourage everyone to do their research. The herbs and plants listed below and those I have personally used and found beneficial. Often products come onto the equestrian market that are based on a specific plant, it is always worth checking the ingredients as it may be cheaper to simply source the key ingredient (ingredients are often listed under the latin name of the plant). As with everything, if you are competing, make sure to check the permitted substances list for your sport and governing bodies to ensure that any supplement you feed is permitted for competitors.
- Using cold water
You wouldn’t wash your own hair in cold water! Using warm water will allow your shampoos and products to lather much better. It also feels more pleasant for the horse. Mix your shampoo into warm water in a bucket and lather up and apply with a sponge or soft cloth