Sally Cousins’ Weekly Training Tip: Losing Twenty Percent

We are delighted to introduce Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami at Rolex. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Sally has been riding and competing at the highest levels for more than 30 years, starting with Badminton and Burghley at the tender age of 20, and has continued to compete at the CCI4* level for the rest of her career. She also integrated a serious job as a stock broker for Merrill Lynch with her career as a rider, before deciding after 16 years to become a true riding professional. Sally is known in the eventing world for riding some of the most difficult horses, and she loves a challenge. It is our pleasure to share her thoughts with you here on EN!

From Sally:

I have decided to start a weekly training tip. Sometimes when I am in a lesson situation with a student, we work on the technical aspects of riding and don’t always take the time to talk about some of the fundamental things that help with successful training. I hope that this series will give riders some food for thought. Check out episode one here!

At the end of every year, I look back and try to remember the most important thing I learned that year. One of the most important things I’ve learned is the concept of losing twenty percent. I was having a dressage lesson and telling my instructor that I was unable to get the same work in the ring that I was able to get at home. He told me that with a really good horse and an experienced rider, the minute you went in the ring you lost twenty percent of your training. Twenty percent!

I gave that idea a lot of thought and realized if you were riding a nervous or green horse, you probably lost more like fifty percent of your training. The concept of losing a percentage of our training applies to all of the phases. This has lead me to make a point of training with a larger margin of error in all of my work.

You can’t go to an event hoping they won’t have a certain type of jump on the course, for example a liverpool on the show jumping or a bank down into water. The point of course design is to test our training. So, we need to make sure our training is thorough enough so that if we lose a large percentage of our training at a show we are still competently able to answer the questions the competition asks of our horse.

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