You’re in the middle of jumping a course, riding a dressage test or working a horsemanship pattern, and suddenly … you forget where to go next. Oops! Having a brain freeze is embarrassing. At a show, it will usually cost you a ribbon. Here are four ways to help you stay on course and memorize your pattern so you’ll be prepared at your next horse show.
First, find a copy of the course. Some, like courses for jumping and trail, may be nothing more than simple lines and arrows on a piece of paper. That’s why it’s important to match all of those lines to the actual objects in the arena.
It often helps to give names to some of the objects, like “red flowers” or “white gate.” Then put your finger onto the paper and trace the route you need to take. This will help your brain make sense of the course, and that makes it easier to remember.
Next, watch several competitors complete the same course you’ll be doing. Usually you can do this at the show. But some tests and patterns—like those for English and western dressage, ranch riding, and reining—are used over and over again and can be found online.
You can also watch videos of champion equestrians demonstrating how they handle the test or pattern. The moving pictures of a horse and rider brings the test or pattern to life. As a result, it’s also easier to remember than just lines on a piece of paper.
Third, give yourself plenty of time to practice your course. It’s hard to remember anything when you’re rushed or frazzled. Find an area in the barn aisle, outside the warm-up ring or at the horse trailer. Then do the course on your own two feet, without your horse. To help it seem more real, draw lines in the dirt to represent jumps, or place little stones on the ground to serve as the markers in a horsemanship pattern. You can practice over and over again, until you have it memorized, without boring or tiring your horse.
Finally, just before it’s your turn, stand in a quiet area. Close your eyes and “see” yourself on course. Recite the course aloud—it’s best if you whisper!—as you envision you and your horse giving a perfect performance. Not only does this visualization help to calm your nerves, it also calms your mind. When you can clearly see yourself remembering the course, and performing it well, you’re sure to come out a winner.