Please Send Me Your Classic Show Prep Mistakes In The Unlikely Event That I've Missed Any

Arrrrgh! Hoooow many times do I have to tell myself, "don't over prepare", "don't focus on one exercise and neglect others", "don't over tire your horse", "don't introduce new tack before a show", ... and yet that's exactly what I've done. Probably not a surprise to anyone who's read my navel gazing goal list and goofle google calendar plan. Stop me before I ride again.
A month ago I felt quite confident that we were ready for Training Level. Rogo was going well although we'd missed a lot of time due to weather and flu. He'd gotten a little stiff to the left again, after being even for months (maybe I was stiff after lack of riding time, not him?) but everything was really quite nice and we were schooling most of Level One. Anyway, to get ready for the show, particularly Training Level test three which has a trot loop to the center line and back,  I started doing the trot loop to the left every chance I got. In retrospect I see that I pretty much stopped going straight to the left, ever! Duh. Then guess what happened? Rogo thought all left long sides meant loops, so when I decided to ride test two and go straight he went down the long side counter bent. It didn't occur to me why until today, so geniusly I decided to put spurs on to get him to listen to my left leg better. Never mind that I've only worn spurs with him once for a few minutes months ago. As an aside I'll wear spurs in good time, and his gaits were brilliant, but they didn't fix the bending problem. No kidding, eh?
While trying to polish the bits and pieces of the test, I started riding more even though I'd made a promise to myself earlier to only do two hard days of training a week and have shorter / easier sessions or fun things the other days (free jumping, hacking), with lots of time off. So, with the extra work, his beautiful jumping canter disappeared to be replaced with a laboured hop that breaks when it shouldn't. 
So far I've wrecked his straightness / evenness and his canter. 
I did manage to salvage something today. I decided to get on and just walk circles and go large for a maximum of ten minutes. It was then that I realized what I'd done and why things had gone down hill. I insisted on straightness quite firmly and we got one long side trot to the left that was straight and I called it a day.
So, do I forget going to the show in approximately a month and go back to sane training and go to a show later in the summer, or see what I can salvage and go to the show now to get some miles on Rogo?
I don't have a teacher right now, and it shows.


Annette said…
I vote going to the show just to get show miles on Rogo. But, going with lower expectations might be good... You sound so much like me. I overthink everything and then BAM it hits me in the side of the head when I relax.
Barbara said…
Don't fix, change or introduce anything in the last week to 10 days before a show. Concentrate on what you are good at, smooth off the rough edges of the stuff you are bad at. Shows are a great way to gauge our training and expose our weaknesses. Accept the weaknesses part, HAVE FUN and be pleasantly surprised at the good marks for the good stuff. Shows are not for training or to be perfect. Those unhappy people stomping around a show ground thought they could be perfect that day. I was taught a long time ago that when you are at a show if you can get 80% of what you can produce at home you are doing well.
Hi Carol -

Two things:

Here is the link to a post called "Making Exercises from Tests" from tbatx that addresses how to train for a dressage show. I think it's very relaxed and creative. Obviously the tests have changed since this was posted, but the general idea is great.

Okay - the other thing is my newest very favorite quote - "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good". (Voltaire)

It's all good, and you're supposed to be having fun. If you have fun. Rogo will too! :)
TBDancer said…
I agree with the posters here. Don't make the show the end-all, be-all. It's just a chance to ride with "eyes on the ground" (and someone writing down every word ;o) and you're a little more dressed up than usual. The judge's comments give you areas to work on at your next lesson. The whole experience is supposed to be, if not fun, at least bearable.
Anonymous said…
I would want to go into the ring fully prepared and having my horse riding a good test, but that's me. However you feel comfortable so that it is a fun experience for you both and you want to show again.
If you are frustrated and feeling unsure, then your show experience will not be a good one.
Rising Rainbow said…
I'n pretty sure there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to riding and people too. Striving for it is good but expecting it will always set you up for failure. Believe me there will always be something you could have done better. That's just life.

I ride without the benefit of a trainer and I always find it helpful to go to shows. The input of the judge is important feedback and sometimes they see things differently than we think we feel. Also, I find it useful to see how my horse stands up next to others in his class. Many times what I think I need to be competitive is much more than is actually showing at the show, especially early in the season like this.
Shannon said…
I go to a show with one goal in mind: Don't fall off. That's it. So far, I have never been disappointed.

Here's the thing: In a dressage show, you have a few minutes to condense all of your training into one test. It's not really fair. The judge doesn't know your situation, or your horse or how hard you work at home. The judge is never going to have a 100% accurate representation of you and your horse at a show. So, you just have to do the best you can with those few minutes, learn from your mistakes and strive to do better at the next show.

Believe me, you're never really "ready" for a show! You just have to go out there and do it. Every show is an opportunity to learn and grow as a rider!
TeresaA said…
don't be silly. once the judge sees my test he'll forget how awful yours was :D :P

just teasing. you didn't ruin your horse. you just got over intense and Rogo responded to that. Even if you don't have a person to coach, get someone knowledgeable to come and watch you ride and give you feedback. it helps tons!
I agree with the commenters above. Go to the show and have fun. If you have fun and don't take it seriously you can learn a lot from the judges and other riders by listening or watching. Before you go, lighten up with Rogo and go back to the easy stuff. Just go for hacks and aim for relaxation for both of you. I think it might make a difference.
Carol said…
Thanks for all the feedback everyone. It was one of those times I really needed advice and I truly appreciate it. I'm taking it to heart and I'm not going to forget it - relax and have fun. That's what it's all about.
And Teresa - I fully expect you to distract the judge with a really bad test. Ha ha, just kidding. You'll be great!
Jan said…
Carol, I agree with the other commenters- I hope you go to the show to 1) gain good basic show experience, 2) do the best you and Rogo can, on that day, and 3) to have a bit of fun as well. When I go to the reining clinics here, everyone but me has a good reining horse and some reining training. When my turn comes to ride the exercise the trainer has chosen, I swallow my pride and think, well, we'll just give it our best, and ride. And then, I watch the others ride. Interestingly, I notice that many of the others struggle with something or other and I say to myself, I needn't have worried about our ride, everyone was having a bit of difficulty themselves! And I feel better. So I hope you can enjoy the progress that you know you and Rogo have made! Good luck! All of your friends here will be waiting to hear how it goes and to give you encouragement!
Anonymous said…
Hi Carol,
We can all get hard on ourselves - it's something I encounter with my students (and myself) on a regular basis! Check out today's post on - there may be a few things there which will help you out. Best of luck, and ENJOY!!
achieve1dream said…
Everyone has given you great advice so I'll just say I think you should go and good luck and have fun!!