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Tips from the top! Compete at your best at this year's British Dressage Nationals

dsc04563-edit-lrInternational rider, FEI dressage judge and trainer Judy Harvey gives 12 top tips to help you prepare for your BD Nationals debut.

1) Feet First.  Get in touch with your farrier and try to arrange for your horse to be shod at least a week before the event. It’s sensible not to have your horse shod just before you go. That way if he is a bit sore, there is time to heal.

2) Coat clipping choices. Look at your horse’s coat. It’s September now so coats may be starting to get a bit thicker. If you do decide to clip, make sure that it’s at least 5 days before you go, for 3 reasons.

  • A very close clip doesn’t always look good
  • If your clippers don’t work, there is still time to beg/borrow or repair them
  • Some horse’s skin can be sensitive after a clip. Add that to stabling your horse in a new environment and some horses can develop a skin rash.

Equilibrium_Products_at_Haresfoot-113 LR3) Iron out any aches and pains. Any physio treatment should be planned for around a week before the event. If your horse is sore, he then has a week to recover and benefit from the treatment. The Equilibrium Therapy range is also an essential part of my daily routine, at home and at competitions.

4) Tack Troubles. Check all tack thoroughly before you go. Don’t be using new tack on the day itself. If you do want new, smart equipment, make sure you are using it well in advance.

5) Stick to what you know! Training – don’t do anything new just before the Championships – stick to your regular routine. Remember, you’ve already been successful and qualified for the Nationals so try not to change too much. Avoid having lots of extra lessons or training sessions. You don’t want to get to the Nationals with a tired horse. Your aim is to get there with a fit horse that is ready to compete.

6) Treat your horse as an individual. When preparing for riding through your test, each horse is different. You know your horse and some will behave better than others at the show. With one of my horses, 18 year Lou Vega, I find that it is better to keep an element of surprise for the test itself. Don’t over practice the same movement if you have a hot horse. Alternatively, a young horse may need more guidance and want to know exactly where to go.

dsc04624-edit-lr7) Practice makes perfect! Try and enter a competition locally, with the same test a few weeks before to iron out any last minute mistakes.

8) Tranquil Travelling. The Magnetic Back Pad is great when the horses have to travel long distances. It helps encourage circulation when the horses are standing still for long periods of time. However, as it also has warming effect on the horses back, although I don’t tend to use it in warm weather on the lorry.

9) Quick thinking. When you get to the Championships, be prepared to be flexible when working in. It’s likely to be very busy and you make have to change your plan a little.

10) Chill out time. The Massage Pad is really useful when away at shows. I always use it when plaiting up. It tends to keep the horse nice and calm and often sends my horses to sleep. In addition, it’s great to use before riding to help warm up back muscles and a relaxing way to cool down the horse after riding. dsc04492-edit-lrI find the Massage Mitt doubly useful as, not only do I treat the horses with a massage, I often put it behind my back to treat me too!

11) Get to know your surroundings. Use the arena familiarization time wisely. It can be very exciting for your horse with 40 horses in the same arena. There is a lot to see and some horses will cope better than others.

12) Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Finally, know your test thoroughly. That way it becomes second nature and you will have one less thing to worry about. But most of all, enjoy the experience. You have done extremely well to get to this stage and good luck!