Monday 14 July 2014

Training Boredom Busters From Hannah Biggs

Schooling is an absolute necessity if you want to improve your performance, regardless of which equestrian discipline you are involved in. But ask any horse to accept being schooled relentlessly in the same arena, day after day, following the same routine, and you will soon find yourself with a very bored horse (not to mention rider!).

Hannah has to train incredibly hard to deliver the exacting performances expected of an international dressage rider, so here are her top boredom busting tips:

Dressage Tips and Training Solutions

  1. Look at breaking up your training sessions. I always aim to never ride in the school for more than two consecutive days. So while I might focus on specific movements in the arena, I will alternate this with hacks or even a ride on the gallops. This not only gives the horses a welcome change of scene, it helps them to relax whilst being exercised at the same time.
  2. Keep ‘test fresh’. Obviously when I am in the school, I practice on the various elements of the test due to be presented at my next competition. However, I make a point of not continuously running through the whole test. I might for example, ask the horse to prepare for a particular transition / movement but not follow through with the actual request, perhaps adding in a change of flexion / a quick sideways move, a shoulder-in. What I am working towards is a horse that is supple and listening to my aids, rather than predicting what comes next. As a rider, you want to feel like you have the opportunity to adjust a movement at any point, either speeding up or slowing down, keeping the head up or asking for the head to work lower, changing flexion - all of these subtle requests need to be willingly accepted AND quickly actioned by the horse.
  3. Most of us don’t have the luxury of having a trainer on the ground at all times, to give guidance and maintain your motivation. I would recommend schooling with earbuds (in-ear headphones) and listening to music playing on a radio / iPod (try downloading the iRide app) to help with concentrating on the job in hand and also to provide a regular rhythm to ride to.
  4. Don’t overlook the benefits of introducing trotting or canter poles to your routine to help improve strength, swing and coordination. In addition, a simple pole work exercise can do wonders for helping to develop bend, balance and impulsion.
  5. Anyone will become bored if tasked with doing the same thing everyday with no particular ‘end’ goal. So while I have a clear long-term end goal (to represent Team GB at the next Olympics) I also regularly introduce frequent mini goals to provide a bench mark for evaluating improvement. For example, I might decide that for a particular horse, I really need to work on improving their half pass to the right, to improve the elasticity and suppleness. At the end of the month, I will revisit that particular movement and assess if there are any noticeable changes in performance. I also look to my trainer (Emile Faurie), my physio team and ultimately the judges for informed feedback to determine if I have successfully achieved what I set out to do.
Let me know how you get on with above tips. If you have any advice you can share on schooling please use the comments box below.

Hannah Biggs is a member of the Jacksons Professional Rider Team and also the World Class Development Squad. As one of Britain's leading dressage riders she competes at an international Grand Prix level. For more expert training tips join the Jacksons Equestrian Club to gain exclusive access to training videos from Hannah and other members of the Jacksons Professional Rider Team.

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