By Chelsey Burris
Be prepared for changes.
This year, things are going to be different across the board. Even if you have ridden in the same show year after year, and think you know the drill, make sure you check all communications before going to the showgrounds. There may be new restrictions in place that you need to be aware of before you arrive. Be ready to practice social distancing, and have an open mind about changes meant to not only keep you safe, but also to make these shows possible in our current environment.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As competitions prepare to resume again, organizers are making many changes to keep their competitors, volunteers, and staff safe. If you’re unclear about anything, make sure you ask! This could include when you should wear a mask, if there are any changes in warm ups, stabling modifications, etc. Competition management understands that this is uncharted territory, and will help you. It’s a learning process for the show managers, just as it is for competitors, but we can work together to keep each other safe.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
In our sport, as with most equestrian disciplines, consistency is the key to improving your riding and your connection with your horse. After this break in showing, and for many folks, a break in their training altogether, you and your horse may take a while to get fully in sync again. A movement that your horse used to nail 9 times out of 10 might now seem like a struggle. And did you really just pick up the wrong lead right in front of the judge? Be gentle on yourself and your horse for uncharacteristic mistakes. This year has thrown a lot of unexpected challenges at us; it’s only natural to need time to become that awesome rockstar pair you were before the break.
Remember your memberships.
If you didn’t renew before the pandemic, don’t forget to get your memberships in order before showing. This could include memberships to both USDF and US Equestrian, if you are planning to ride in recognized shows, or Group Member Organization memberships for GMO shows. Don’t forget your horse! Make sure its “memberships” are in order as well. Also, make sure the breed registration papers are updated and on file with USDF, if you plan to compete for any breed specific awards. It’s better to get these things squared away ahead of time than trying to finish things last minute at the showgrounds, or have to pay the dreaded non-member fee.
If 2020 has given us anything positive, it’s a new perspective on just how lucky we are. Havingtime away from showing should help you realize that every ride down centerline with your 1,200-pound partner is a cause for celebration, regardless of your score. Break out the carrots and give your horse a cuddle as we had into the second half of this wild year.
Some great resources are available to dressage riders on the USDF website, including the Best Practices – Considerations for Dressage Competitions document,US Equestrian Coronavirus Disease Resources, USEF/USDF Joint Webinar about a safe return to competition, and more. Stay safe and we will see you in the show ring soon!