As 2011 begins, I find myself in the recurring position of trying to decide on a New Year's resolution that is attainable and measurable. This, I'm sure, is a familiar feeling for most people on 1/1 of every year. While 2009 was a great year for me, 2010 certainly could have been better. However, a successful move up to Intermediate is nothing to sneeze at, and my overall competitive goal for 2010 was satisfied by this move up. Due to weather and soundness issues, I could not compete at either of the two fall 2010 shows I originally entered, but I am blessed with having a sound, competitive horse ready to play in the new year.
For the first time, Dante will make the trek to Florida and I will have a chance to play with the big boys (and girls!) at the upper levels. In the past, I have been limited from performing my (and Dante's) best at dressage, both physically and mentally. Physically, because I was never properly taught dressage foundations in the first place, instead trying to piece it together based on what I saw and was told. Mentally, because as soon as I was asked to ride before a dressage judge I would tense up, causing Dante to become nervous, and ultimately creating a big ball of equine and human nerves that inevitably resulted in bad scores. I know we are capable of putting in top five dressage tests consistently, if I could just overcome my shortcomings.
To aid in the physical department, my assistant coach and I began from the beginning, doing lunge lessons with no reins or stirrups, stretching down from my hips and up through the shoulder blades. This portion of my retraining is under way and we will only get better as I gain strength and become comfortable with the new position.
It was primarily in the mental game that I needed to improve. Before, I always stated that since I was an amateur, I was not concerned about the dressage score, so if it was okay if it was bad so long as it was qualifying. Unfortunately, this thinking confirmed I was bad before I even tried, so of course I got bad dressage scores. I have never had any doubt of Dante's and my cross country ability, so we have never had true issues in that phase. That thinking needs to transfer over to dressage. Without confidence in myself and my horse in our ability to perform during dressage, I have no chance of being competitive.
To aid in my understanding of sports psychology, I began reading "Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence" by Gary Mack and David Casstevens. This book has truly helped me begin to feel confident that we will be able to go to Florida and be competitive despite riding against the professionals.
While reading, a resolution began to form. In 2011, I will set and write down weekly goals. These goals should be specific in nature, and preferably able to be measured numerically. For instance "Do 20 crunches per day" is better than "Improve ab strength" or "Exercise abs." For riding, I will write "Execute ten correct left handed turns through corners per dressage ride" or "Ride two correct shoulder-ins to the right per dressage ride." I will write these goals down weekly and evaluate whether or not I completed these goals. In this way, I will become confident that I have prepared correctly and will be eager to show the dressage judges just what we are capable of.