A 3-week preparation plan for a dressage competition

Australian representation Grand Prix rider Brett Parbery gives advice on preparing for an upcoming dressage show

I have a few years of dressage competition under my belt! Over the years, I’ve come up with a preparation routine that suits me and keeps my horses happy and healthy.

In between the shows, it’s all about training and progression. It’s when I’m concentrating on the actual training of new movements, higher levels of collection, sharper responses, all working towards progression to the next level.

3 weeks to competition:

With a few weeks to go before the big day, I start to ride lines from the tests and run through set-ups for the movements.

It’s not super repetitive, just a line here and there, getting the feel for the tests. It’s important to do this because you may not naturally ride the lines that are in the tests.

I have all the dressage tests on the wall of my arena so I can refer to them when I’m on a horse.

2 weeks to competition:

This is when I introduce the half passes. I tend to steer clear of them at other times, I think they’re quite hard on the horses’ legs.

I start to ride more of the transitions that are needed in the test.

1 week to competition:

This is the first time I ride through the test as ‘working’ tests. What I mean by that, is that I keep training the horse and correcting mistakes. So if something goes wrong, I go back and correct it.

You definitely don’t want to overdo the riding of the whole test. It doesn’t take long for the horses to remember and start anticipating.

Competition time:

For the big shows that span a few days, it is essential to set up camp there but honestly, I don’t like to hang around too long. I feel the horses are better off at home, in their paddocks.

Remember if you are travelling a long distance, try to schedule a stop to get the horses off the float and grazing with their heads down. Avoid travelling in extreme heat.

For the young horses, I arrive so I have two training days with them at the venue. For the experienced horses, I allow for just one training day.

I hope this helps give you some ideas on how you can prepare for an upcoming competition.

Good luck!