Learn to evaluate your run after the show like NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani.
By Andrea Fappani, With Jennifer Paulson
Whether you have the run of your life or your pattern is a disaster, the notes and thoughts you take away from each performance shape your next steps. Being strategic about using your post-run resources is key to continued improvement with your horse, no matter the level at which you compete. I use two essential components to learn from each run on every single horse I show: notes I write after the run and an evaluation of my video. Here’s how both influence my plans to improve before my next show.
Notebook of Insights
Once I’m home from a show, I write notes about how each horse performed. I consider everything I felt in each maneuver, what I liked and didn’t like, and what I need to work on. I give my horses two or three days off after a show, so it’s easy to forget. Detailed notes help keep those thoughts at the top of my mind.
My notes aren’t all negative—I keep the things I liked in the back of my mind and note what it took to get to that place. For example, if I spent two weeks working on a left turnaround and saw a marked improvement, I note what I did to get there. If the issue arises again, I can refer to my notes to fix it.
The things I didn’t like about a run can take a while to fix. But by noting what needs to be addressed, I can make a plan and give myself enough time to work on those problems rather than try to tackle them in a short time right before the next competition.
Most of us watch videos of our runs. For me, a lot of times what I feel and what an observer (the judge) sees are different. Watching my video puts me in the judge’s chair to see what he sees, and then I can compare that to what I feel in the saddle. For example, I might think I’m going a certain speed, but on the video, it looks much slower. Noticing that allows me to put more effort into showing my horse’s speed and quality of movement the next time we show. A lot of times, a really good mover looks like he’s going slower because it’s effortless. By contrast, a horse that doesn’t have great movement might look faster because he really has to work at it. Watching the video allows me to change my speed to help show my horse’s degree of difficulty.
I also closely observe my body position. It’s easy to get into bad habits when no one is watching, such as looking down, slumping over, or helping my horse too much. All of these things influence my presentation and my horse’s ability to do his job correctly.
Sometimes I might feel like something is going along well, and I’m pretty satisfied. But when I watch the video, I can see from another perspective that I’m helping my horse too much. Then I know that I need to turn loose of him and let him try harder for me.
Along with seeing what I need to fix, I can also determine what I can leave alone. For example, I might feel like my horse leans too much in his left circles, but when I watch the video, it doesn’t look like it. Instead of focusing on something that’s not going to markedly improve my score, I can focus on other issues that will.
After every run, focus on the changes you can make that will influence your score. It’s easy to get bogged down in details, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Your desire to get everything just right takes up time you should be spending on fixing issues you identify that can help your outcome.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Fappani is an NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider and has won every NRHA major event multiple times. Learn more at fappaniperformance.com.