Lyndsey Ryder

Preparing for a competition

Petplan Equine Ambassador, Lyndsey Ryder shares her top tips for preparing for a competition on learning and practising your test, turn out and tackling those competition day nerves.

With the summer competition season upon us, Max and I are aiming for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals so preparation is already underway! Here are my tips for preparing for a competition.

When competing in a championships class, the rules are ‘no whip and no callers’ so it is important to learn your test! An error is too expensive and I cannot afford costly mistakes. It is also important to practise riding with no whip; ask yourself, is he on the aids?

To learn the test I like to break the test down in movements and I include these in my normal schooling. I try not to get fixated on one movement but instead mix the movements that are going to be required in the test and work on them discreetly. If for instance our halts aren't great, I sometimes get some poles out and practice halting in between them; this helps keep him straight in the halt. So rather than nagging Max about halting for a whole session, I get the trot poles out on the centreline and trot up the centreline over the poles, track right at C and again at B then halt on X so I am halting in between the poles. I then ride back up the centreline and halt between the poles on X again. I also incorporate rein back practise into this exercise. It is simple, fun and effective!

I often mix in pole work to our session as I find this helps with engagement and core strength, both of which we definitely need. For some more pole work exercise inspiration, check out Petplan Equine’s Training Tips pages.


It is important to know if your horse has any weaknesses so you can spend time improving these. Max’s weakness is his extended trot and leg yield. Again, instead of nagging him, I practice this outside of the arena when we are out hacking when Max is relaxing and happy. I find this is a good place to work on the things he struggles with as when he is hacking he doesn't necessarily realise he is doing the movements he struggles with in the school. For example, I may trot him up hills, riding him a little more collected and then push for a few medium strides. This helps develop the movements without pressure which really works for Max.

Next, as much as I hate being videoed, it's actually very beneficial. Ask a friend to video you running through the test a few times and you may spot areas that you can improve.

How do I cope with nerves? Trust me when I say, I get nervous! I have been seen crying trotting round at a championship show waiting for the bell to ring. What I have learnt is everybody gets nervous, whether you are doing your intro test or riding at Grand Prix. Nobody starts an expert, I tell myself enjoy it when it goes right, learn from when it doesn't. It's important to remember, rosettes are earned at home, and shows are only a collection point. If it doesn't go our way at a competition, we go home and improve what needs improvement and try again. At a competition it's not 'win or lose' it's actually 'win or learn' and with that in mind you can never go wrong.

Whatever happens on the day of a competition, one thing is for sure, we will be dressed to impress! Max will have his feathers trimmed, he will be bathed with his white legs scrubbed and then rubbed down with a little talcum powder to make them super white. I use clear shiny hoof polish on Max because I find this makes his legs look longer, black polish is to abrupt for him and makes his legs look short. Max will of course be plaited to perfection, which will then be sprayed with gloss ready to sparkle at the judges. To finish off, I gloss his knees, hocks, along the topline on his neck and his tail. Make sure your tack is clean; especially the brow band and nose band as this is the first thing the judge will see when you’re coming down the centre line.

Watch the video below to see how we prepare Fred before competition, or check out Petplan Equine’s turnout tips for the perfect plaits and quarter marks.

Petplan Equine Ambassador Lyndsey Ryder's tips on preparing for a competition

Lastly once all the preparations are done, I know people stay it all the time but enjoy your moment! After all you have worked hard for it. If you are aiming for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals as well; good luck! They are a grand but fun and friendly competition. Take time to reflect on just how far you have come, don't forget to congratulate yourself on your achievement even to get qualified to be there is amazing!