Sounds crazy right. Let me explain.
There are many times when I'm getting ready for a show that all I can think of is "we are not ready". Maybe I should keep schooling and just sit this show out. This thought process can very easily become a vicious cycle of always schooling and never showing for fear of never being good enough. I think this happens more in Dressage than most other sports.
The reality is in Dressage we become perfectionists. Which in order to ride it well, that's kind of a must. The desire to make each movement the best it can be, that's what ends up making it beautiful. In seeking perfection, sometimes we talk ourselves out of competing when we know we are not yet perfect. No ride is perfect, that's why we haven't seen a 100% yet in the show ring. You don't need to be perfect to get out there!
There comes a point in our riding, if we want to compete, then that is exactly what we need to do. Even if it is a hot mess. When we show, we get nervous and it affects our rides. We have to learn to ride through those nerves. Like anything else showing takes practice. Practice showing. Heck, that's why they call them "Schooling" Shows!
I am a pretty good rider. I struggle with fear that sometimes holds me back from being a great rider...but all in all, I am a good rider. I, however, am NOT a good TEST rider. Test riding is far different from schooling. I can do 10 stretchy circles in schooling and finally get a really great one and feel really good about it. In the test there is only one, and sneaks up on you awfully quickly. By the time you finally get your horse stretching half way decent....crap, circle over. I typically spend the majority of my test just trying to get through one movement and on to the next. There is a point in each test where my mind lets out a huge sigh of relief when it realizes "We are almost done!"
Learning to test ride takes time and practice. Often one of the best ways to practice is in a ring in front of a judge. The great part about schooling shows is the judges often write really helpful comments on how to improve your ride. Often it's repeating things we already knew, but will reinforce working harder on those things when you get back home.
One day while riding through a Training Level Test something happened. The test slowed down. Instead of feeling like everything was rushing up on me and I was scrambling to get through each movement, I had time to think, to feel, and to ride the movement. I was able to prep for the next move. Ride the corners, create bend, half halt. My husband probably describes it best with a football reference. When you first start playing the game seems to be screaming by you at 100 mph and you can't keep up. When you start getting good, the game slows down and you can see the plays. That's how it was for me. I could see my test finally. That's when you know you are learning to ride the test.
So get out there and compete, and get better at competing. And just remember that on horse show day it's never too early to drink!