Preparing for the indoor dressage season

Before we know it, many dressage competitions will be moving inside, and the winter season will be in full swing. It’s a different beast to outdoor dressage and can bring its own challenges. Here are 12 things to consider before you venture indoors for the first time this season:


1)      There will be a monster in one corner – this is guaranteed. Your horse will trot around like a lamb for 75% of the arena but there will be one corner that is home to a monster. Make sure your inside leg is ON in this corner and be ready for the spook, keep looking ahead to make your horse think you’re not bothered and kick on!


2)      Warm up could be outdoors – it’s likely the warm up arena will be outdoors, and if it’s the middle of winter it could be cold meaning your horse may be frisky to begin with. Try to find a quiet corner to warm up in and make sure you take a Protechmasta quarter sheet with you to take the edge off. (Make sure you know the rules - a quarter sheet must be securely attached to the saddle during warm up under British Dressage rules).


3)      Warm up could also be indoors - which means your horse might have to get used to two indoor arenas. If your horse can be funny in different arenas, arrive early so you have plenty of time to settle him in the new environment. Spend lots of time reassuring him in the warm up, and get close to any arena banners or spooky things so when he moves into the competition arena, he’s already seen some “spooky” things.


4)      Banners will be closer to the arena edge – it’s highly likely they’ll be some advertising banners in the arena which will be close to the edge and may scare your horse if he’s not used to them. You can replicate this at home with wrapping paper pinned to your arena walls or draping bed sheets over the sides.


5)      Don’t presume it will be indoors! Try and find out beforehand whether the competition inside or outside. If you can prepare as much as possible before the big day you’ll be a lot calmer when it comes to trotting into the arena.


6)      There could be lots of items to make the indoor arena look smart – expect flower pots, scary white dressage boards and even ribbons. Organisers often dress up indoor arenas to make them look smart so be prepared for frillies and fancies that your horse might take a disliking too.


7)      The arena letters may not be on the floor – if you’ve spent the summer doing outdoor dressage, the arena markers are usually on blocks, indoor dressage differs in that the letters are generally on the wall so make sure you’ve spotted where they are ahead of time so you know where to cast your eyes for the movements.


8)      The judge’s position could be different – they could be in a box, a car, a chair or sat up in arena seating. Again, before you start the test, make sure you make a mental note of where the judge is sat and how high off the ground they are. If they’re on a chair near the arena and you’re prone to talking to your horse, remember they may be able to hear you!


9)      There might be a viewing gallery which could generate some noise. People walking around, seats folding up and down, nattering and food packets. Ride past this area a few times before you start if possible. Fellow competitors and spectators are generally very mindful of your needs so don’t be afraid to ask people to stay quiet during your test if you havare concerned.


10)   It may be winter but remember indoor arenas can get hot so make sure you're wearing the right clothes and if your horse can get hot consider clipping. No one wants to be sweating during their test so make sure you have the right amount of layers on under your show jacket. We can advise warming up with a riding jacket over your show jacket then removing it before you go in the ring. Either way, layers is the key to this one! The Kingsland riding jacket is perfect for such ocassions, smart for the competition environment and warm enough to use on the coldest winter day.


11)   If you can’t get out, try filming from home. If transport, time or having an anxious traveller are problems for you, don’t worry you can compete from the comfort of your home arena. Online dressage has been around for a while now – look at Dressage Anywhere and Demi Dressage for the young ones out there.


12)   And finally, don’t panic! Try to imagine your arena at home, whether this is indoor, outdoor or set up in a field – picture the environment you’re comfortable in and visualize this when you arrive at a competition. You chose to be there competing so make sure your choice was a good one.