Friday 22 April 2011

Sam Watson Reflects On Day One Of Dressage

Laura Collett Is Delighted After Her Dressage Test
At the end of day one the riders at last have a leaderboard, or at least half a leaderboard to focus their sights on. For the riders that have been today their fate in the dressage phase has been decided. Those who have underperformed will have to muster a lot of mental strength to get over one disappointment and refocus for the next two disciplines. You can’t afford to head out on cross country day with your tail between your legs, or things will only get worse! For others it’s job done, time to pack away the dressage saddle and start concentrating on Sunday’s big test. And for the early leaders, every fence on that notorious course has just grown 10inches taller. With success comes pressure, some thrive on it and others just don’t.

Of course we’re only halfway through the dressage and many of the favourites are all lined-up for tomorrow’s action. The riders that are genuinely trying to win the event need to be careful not to be put off by the gauntlet that has been laid down by young Laura Collett. 36.5 is the current benchmark but that won’t necessarily be the winning score come Monday. Last year it was a 44.5, so one has to be careful not to push a horse beyond its limit tomorrow just to catch the day one leader. The best advice I ever heard was ‘the only person you need to beat is yourself’. Do the best you possibly can and the rest will take care of itself. Obviously if a low thirties score is achievable for you and your horse then you will of course be aiming to produce a test of that quality. If it isn’t a realistic target then don’t demoralise your horse by asking too much of it and don’t be demoralised yourself because the title ‘dressage leader’ seems out of your grasp. Doing either of those things may jeopardise your score in the ring tomorrow, so sticking to the plan is essential for riders at this stage.

The one area where plans can change is on the cross country course. I walked it for a second time today, as will most of the riders taking part. The second walk means decision time is looming. Long routes can be set in stone at this stage. No one plans a long option and then suddenly decides to go straight, but the opposite does happen all the time. Riders will be identifying the scenarios that may occur. If a fence is causing problems for some early riders, the later ones can make the decision to go long on the day. The time penalties of those first few horses will also dictate whether a long route is ‘affordable’ or not. And the dressage scores may give a rider some breathing space or it may mean that they have to go for broke. Tactics may not be the first word to spring to mind when you think about eventing, but I can assure you that they exist.

I haven’t seen the weather forecast but today was verging on uncomfortably hot. Having confidently declared that the cross country optimum time wouldn’t pose a huge threat, I’m beginning to wonder if this heat is enough to bring stamina into play. Last year it was the deluge of rain on the Saturday night that made the biggest impact on the leaderboard, this year it could be Mr Sunshine!!! Don’t miss tomorrow, is an absolutely cracking field and great day of dressage awaits us….

1 comment:

Jo said...

Love Sam's writing style. He's funny, knowledgeable and get's to the heart of the sport. Great job Sam.

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