Written by Valerie Armitage

Still on cloud nine, Gerry said “If I could give up work I would do dressage all of the time”.

Gerry and Tommy Tipple celebrate their first win, with a score of 67.4%, impressive in anyone's book!  This was the first time the pair had gone to a competition on their own; normally Amy's horse Charles would accompany them.  Understandably, Gerry was a little anxious about how Tommy would cope without his friend.  To help overcome nerves Gerry explained how important it is to have a plan; not just for the day but the also the build up.  Preparation is key; you need to stay focussed and have a very clear strategy as to how you are going to work in and ride the test. Give yourself sufficient time and don't suddenly decide to do something entirely different! 

Gerry put into practise everything she had learned in her lessons, including tips on how to avoid throwing marks away, and how to show Tommy off to his best, all helped to increase Gerry's confidence and marks. 

Some of Gerry's winning tips included:

> To ride the best possible centre line, enter on your horse's better rein, don't get hung up on whether you are turning right or left at C
> Have a caller, this helps me visualise the test and set up the movements
> Make sure your instructor is working with you to achieve your goals, are you progressing?
> Have a clear plan and strategy to help you stay focussed
> Don't be intimidated by the big flashy horses, they still have to deliver the goods when they get in front of the judge
> Practise between lessons, whether out hacking or in the school, ask questions of your instructor
> Always ride movements correctly, it will then become second nature and you don't have to make an effort to remember to use that 
  corner or ride a circle which is round!
> Avoid losing marks, rather than trying to see where you can pick them up

I am fortunate in having found an instructor who insists movements are ridden correctly, near enough is most definitely not good enough.  Her approach to test riding is how you avoid losing marks, rather than how do you pick them up, it really does make a difference to how you approach your riding.  We are making progress and having fun - what a great combination!

We are already working on prelim movements and correct way of going.  All we have to do is string them together when we do our first Prelim test!  For me it is important you enjoy it and make progress.  An added benefit, it has encouraged me to learn how to learn again - something that benefits everyone.

Gerry feels she has found an absolute star in Tommy; he loves to learn and has bags of personality.  Going up the centre line it felt like he was flirting with the judge and if he could have winked at her I am sure he would have.  He was clearly very pleased with himself.