Oct 04, 2023

Schooling for Success: 5 Tips for Your Next Practice Outing

USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

The following is provided through a partnership between STRIDER and the USEA. As part of our commitment to diversity, enabling access, and building capacity throughout the industry we are pleased to provide this content to benefit the sport of eventing.

September 23 marked the Autumnal Equinox and official start of fall, and across many USEA Areas the fall eventing season is in full swing. In addition to the many recognized opportunities available, your fall season is likely to also be packed with schooling outings. Whether you and your horse are headed out with your trainer and a group to cross-country school, or you’ve entered a schooling show to fine tune your skills, we’ve compiled some ways to make the most of your practice outings this season.

1. Set a Goal

Have a clear intention for your outing. Maybe your goal for that schooling dressage or jumper show is just to have a better plan in the warm-up, or try something new before you go into the ring. If you’ve aimed at a schooling dressage show to practice that phase for an upcoming recognized event, break the test down by its movements and pick a few to practice that you can try to do very well day-of.

When you head out to cross-country school with your trainer and barn mates, identify one or two specific things you can do as a rider to help your horse answer the questions he or she is presented with that day. When you identify the overall objective of your outing both you and your horse are more likely to have a positive experience.

2. Receive Feedback

Video is a fantastic tool for improvement. Even if you’re on a solo outing, you can often find someone who is willing to video your jump round or dressage test. At schooling shows especially, most dressage judges take extra time to add constructive comments on your test. While of course you want the best score possible, read through that feedback to see what you might be able to improve upon for next time.

Your horse can also provide helpful feedback. Was he or she quite stressed on the trailer or getting tacked up in a new place? Noticing those things can help you make a plan to mitigate that stress for your next off-site adventure.

3. Simulate a Recognized Outing

If you are someone who starts feeling the pressure when you’ve submitted an entry to something recognized, use those schooling outings to simulate a “real” show or horse trial. Practice riding in your show clothes; they might feel different! Removing variables from your preparation for a recognized outing can be a great way to channel some of those inevitable show day nerves.

4. Take Advantage of Do-Overs

Schooling outings are for schooling. If you’re heading to a jumper show, sign up for an extra round at the same height; dressage schooling show organizers will also often allow you to ride the same test twice. Knowing that you have a do-over can be helpful for your own focus and relaxation in a new setting.

5. Keep it Fun

Remember why you started and enjoy the ride!

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