Preparations for Badminton began a long time ago from my perspective, and riders have been aiming towards this week since before Christmas. Senior riders are pushing for selection whilst younger riders are looking to test their skills under the pressure amongst the best.
My role varies from rider to rider, but having worked with both the GB World Class system and the Australian High performance team the overall brief is to create the environment for riders and horses to achieve their potential. This week is about working closely with the “horse-related” coaches to ensure that the riders are mentally and physically ready to perform.
Even the trot up can present issues! It’s quite usual for riders to be carrying minor injuries that make trotting a horse in front of a buzzy crowd an interesting proposition,
For the younger riders the last 3 years have been spent getting the right horse power together to be able to consistently compete at the highest level. But once you have this, there comes the test of being able to deliver. It’s a tricky balance, the average age of a championship winning rider is towards 40, and the key is experience. So we’re trying to learn quickly, to accelerate the process of learning to give the younger rider every chance of developing. We’re very much trying to learn from the best and pass this information on to the rest, and we’ve used a whole host of technology in the last five years to do this.
From a dressage perspective this means being able to cope with pressure, stay focused on their riding without tension creeping into both themselves and then the horse. The beauty of the 3 phases is that everything (in theory!) happens in a sequence, and we build mental skills like focus and relaxation almost around the lines of a play.
So two dressage tests today have seen the culmination of long term strategies. The last two days have been a complete mixture of final “tuning”: from taping shoulders for postural support, working through video analysis from training here, right through mental planning and visualisations. All to produce it when it counts. And now the course walking starts!