Training Tips

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Author: EI Admin/Thursday 4 July 2013/Categories: Training

Principles of Training: by John Watson, ICES, BHSI.

Here are some general thoughts on the process that is Training to Event. There are Four stages to becoming a capable competitor which are:

Unconscious Innocence: This is the stage at which we all enter a sport 'for the craic' and where so often it can be said that 'ignorance is bliss". We can have a great time, by good luck more than good judgement. At this level no-one has to put very much thought or preparation into getting around an Intro or Pre-Novice course. But sooner or later we wake up to the probability that there is a lot more to the sport if we could get a bit better. Also we all know there are risks to Eventing and let's face it, we probably owe it to the sport, if not ourselves, that we make some effort not to become a statistic. So this is when we move to the next stage:

Conscious Incompetence: At this stage we start to cop on that there might be some advantages to getting a bit of help and guidance. This is the level at which we start to 'Learn to Train'. A good trainer or coach will help you step by step to get greater enjoyment out of the sport. This applies even to the amateur who has a modest goal of enjoying a full day's activity and is happy to run at Sportsman level. Most will get satisfaction if their marks improve through the season; their horse becomes easier to ride; and it and they become less prone to injury as they get fitter. Those who are competitive amongst you realise that good coaching will be essential and even a better horse might help. But it's a jungle out there, and finding someone in whom you can be confident for sound advice can be a real blessing.

Conscious Competence: At this stage you have started to get some helpful advice. But it can be a bit of an effort to remember all that training at first. You probably spend most of the dressage test trying to remember just what you do with your inside leg and where or when should you be yielding or was that only half a pass. But you do start to notice that when you do occasionally manage to get it together, you can be quite impressive. This is the stage at which your training is starting to pay off: So you find this is where you "Train to Compete".

Unconscious Competence: This is where it all really starts to happen. You know the test without having to think about which movement comes next. Suddenly you seem to have lots of time to think and enjoy your round. This is because you have trained your brain and body to operate a greater percentage of the time on automatic. You no longer worry about just getting over the fence. Now you start to find the quicker lines around the course and through combinations, because you know and trust your horse. This starts to happen at whatever level you have set yourself as your personal comfort zone. This means you have arrived at the stage where you find you can "Compete to Win".

After this it becomes a question of pushing yourself up to the level of your ambition by a perpetual circle between the last two levels. You learn or discover something new and then practice to get better. Here is where you remember that it is correct practice that makes perfect: After all, it does not lead to much progress to keep practising your faults. One of the best pieces of advice, which helps me when the going gets tough, is the idea that also-rans practise until they get it right, but winners practise until they do not get it wrong. And the beauty of Eventing is that you can experience it at so many levels, to suit yourself. But please remember, the first aim should be to ENJOY this wonderful and challenging sport!

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