January 2017 - Eye on Eventing
Written by Lauren Billys
Friday, 30 December 2016 00:58

Make the Most of Winter: Downtime between competitions is the perfect time to try new approaches and prepare for the next season.

by Lauren Billys

As we all close the book on the past year of 2016 and look forward to moving towards 2017, we, as riders, have a winter break that spans the gap between the excitement of horse shows.

I must say personally this has been the most fun winter break that I have had yet. Part of me looks forward to November knowing I will eat a lot of turkey and fall asleep on the couch, but also to take a break mentally from the daily push of getting ready for every upcoming competition. This winter break is a different one for me personally as I have focused on getting a training business off the ground, and within my riding, I am having more fun than ever.

The daily grind of preparing for horse shows can change the focus from horse training to preparing for a specific test or new level. In the winter months, we can wipe away all of these pressures and focus on what truly makes our horses successful: techniques and basics. Instead of thinking about how to manage our way through a certain test or jump a clean Preliminary show jumping round, we can work on the basics on a daily basis.

Playing with new instincts, trying new equipment and experimenting with different combinations of aids can help our horses become even more successful in the upcoming year. Remember that ultimately taking risks can reap big rewards.

In an effort to really break through to the next level in my riding, I have decided to work on the basics and learn more about each horse individually with thought and a willingness to try new things to reach the next level in the new year.

Mentally, as we move forward to the new year, I think it is important to make goals for the new year that build from the last year. As I make my new goals, I try to celebrate my successes and recognize my weaknesses. When I can look at what I was able to do in the past year and places I can improve, I can better evaluate what realistic goals are ahead of me.

These goals typically materialize into competitions I would like to go to, and beneath every competition is the training that makes us successful. It is in this training that I really pay attention to my weaknesses. Every day I work to address these weaknesses. I know if I can ride my personal best every day, and improve on these weaknesses through daily practice that, by the time I get to my competition, I will be better than I was before. I find that when I focus on fixing my weaknesses I can find the small nuances that make me improve through a better use of an aid or a particular exercise.

In all of this, I learn that in the winter I can become the rider I want to be before I get to the next competition.



As you look forward to the wide expanse of potentially uninspired winter, I challenge you to take the time to take risks, learn more about your horse, and make goals for the new year. As you make goals for the new year, break down these large goals into daily exercises you can practice and improve upon.

Make 2017 the best year yet through meaningful practice and learning more about yourself and your horses!

Happy New Year and happy winter training!

Columnist Lauren Billys contested the 2016 Olympics in Rio, on behalf of Puerto Rico, and has written about that remarkable experience for us since early 2016. She continues to compete and is accepting students and horses at Lauren Billys Eventing on the Monterey Peninsula. Visit www.laurenbillys.com for more info.