The 5 Stages Of Dressage Show Panic

The Dressage Show – months of lessons and hours of practice at home all lead up to this.

The perfectly groomed horse, the spotless rider (Oh please!) and the effortless warmup.  For some, it’s actually more of a really sweaty, overexciting, super-draining day, with more feelings of feverish distress than “elegance.”

If you’re getting ready to trot down the Centerline, the following list of Stages of Panic is a great preparatory cheat sheet.

did such a fun job earlier this spring with her article The 7 Stages of Panic When Your Trainer Raises the Fences on Eventing Nation.  Here’s a brazen knockoff of her idea from a dressage perspective.

1*. The “No Biggie” Stage.

At first arrival, things seem just peachy.  The energy at the showground is a little higher than for a normal schooling day, but it’s fairly quiet and seems like a smallish, easy show.

Rider’s attitude at this point:  Whatever. No biggie, you’ve got this.

dressage show panic

2*. The “Ehh, Ummm” Stage.  
Somehow all the horses look much more polished, together, supple and powerful as soon as you get in the warmup arena.  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Well, this is interesting. Are you sure all these pairs are showing at our lower level?  Hmm, we’ve still got this.  Totally.  Just warm up as usual, never mind the passage over there.
horse show nerves
3*. The “I’m Out Of My League” Stage
Slooowly, a bit of panic starts creeping in.  Issues from earlier schooling rides are popping up.  And they’re bigger now.  Maybe it’s time to reconsider showing at this level..?  There’s just no way you’re ready for this, you can’t even go straight.
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Is my horse going be a complete tense ball like this the whole test?  Man, yes, she’s going to be all tense!  We’re 45 seconds out from the bell ringing and I know for sure she’s going to be tense.  Just half halt…  soften…  half halt…   
Wait, what’s a half halt?
4*. The “Why Did I Sign Up For This?” Stage.
Your horse seems to completely forget everything you’ve practiced for the past several months.  (Or make that a year.)  Staggering on to the centerline just strides out from halting at X, you’re so busy trying to go straight while also questioning the sanity of showing a completely untrained horse, everything else is blurry and there’s NO breathing going on.  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  I’ve obviously overestimated my skills.  10 years, and there are no skills.surviving dressage shows
5*. The “Just Do It” Stage.  
Making the turn at C, there’s no turning back.  Half shocked you’re still on the horse and actually know the next movement, fake confidence or not, you’re all business.  And it’s happening!  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Make the best of this situation!  You’re doing it!  Ride like no one’s watching, but better. 🙂  Forward!

Go out of your comfort zone!

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