If you're looking to get involved with affiliated dressage, then the Petplan Equine Area Festivals are perfect. They provide riders with the chance to experience a championship style event in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
One rider who's found the Petplan Equine Area Festivals to be a huge confidence boost is Maria Carrasco, who rides her Hanoverian mare Corlita. Maria first became involved with affiliated dressage when she and Corlita (Lita) were selected as one of three horse and rider combinations to take part in Petplan Equine’s Aspire to Affiliate campaign.
During the campaign, the three combinations were lucky enough to receive training from international dressage rider Charlie Hutton and Sports Psychologist Charlie Unwin. The aim was to provide support and training as they prepared for their first affiliated competition. All three riders hoped to compete in the Petplan Equine Area Festivals.
Charlie Hutton's advice on self-carriage.
"Do more walk to canter transitions and canter to walk transitions. This will encourage your horse to take more weight on the hindlegs, improving balance and self-carriage. You can encourage your horse to become more responsive to the aids which in turn will help with the balance and enable you to develop self-carriage rather than relying on the rein."
When Maria first met Charlie Hutton, she described Lita as “has talent but lacks direction,” however the pair progressed well throughout their lessons.
Maria’s goals were to compete in a Prelim test and gain her first qualifying score towards an Area Festival and to enjoy it, as her nerves were a big ‘bugbear’ and something she wished to improve.
Together Maria and Charlie Hutton worked on improving Lita’s self-carriage while she and Charlie Unwin worked on combating her nerves. Maria began the qualification process for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals following her training. In her first affiliated competition at Pachesham Equestrian Centre, Maria aimed to score 62% and far exceeded that scoring a very respectable 67.4%.
After gaining her third qualifying score, Maria competed at the Chester Hall Events Petplan Equine Area Festival. To Maria’s amazement she and Lita placed third and are now preparing for their Area Festival Final at Codham Park on the 15th September! "I am very much looking forward to the Area Festival Final at Codham Park in September, it is hard to imagine this time last year that I would have been preparing to actually go to a Final. I am so lucky to have all the techniques Charlie Unwin taught me to help with my nerves” concludes Maria.
Charlie Unwin's advice to anyone that suffers greatly with their nerves is to be as prepared as you possibly can be and ride at a level you are comfortable with.
He explains, "Concentrate on things you can control, such as improving your horse's balance, rhythm, straightness and all the other important elements needed to ride a good test."
"The Petplan Equine Area Festivals have been a great competition for us.
The venues have all been very helpful and they too have instilled confidence in us," commented Maria.
"The qualification process through to going to an Area Festival is so straightforward, and your confidence can build as you progress to the next round.
It's inspiring to see so many other competitors in the same boat as us and all being so supportive and encouraging. So don't hesitate to give them a try."
For more information about the Petplan Equine Area Festivals, the beginners guide and lots more training advice, visit the ultimate guide to the Area Festivals on the Your Horse website.
In addition, Petplan Equine has just added the Maximise your Marks training video series with Charlie Hutton. In these videos, Charlie shares his knowledge and some useful exercises to help you prepare for your next competition.