6 ways I beat horse show nerves
Well, it's finally here. My first horse show in a little over two years.
This Friday and Saturday I'll be with my Haddenloch barn family at a local hunter/jumper show. For the past two years, I've been ringside as a supporter but not this time!
And I've gotta say that I'm a little nervous.
It's a 50/50 nervous mix. I'm half nervous-excited like a little kid waking up and running down the hall to see what presents Santa left under the tree, and half just flat out nervous.
I've shown before, and I feel as though now I'm riding better than ever, so why should I be nervous? Being nervous is a natural response to something unknown, a stressor, and built-up anticipation about performance and results.
Why do we get nervous?
Thousands of years ago, when we had to hunt and kill our food, a fight or flight response (something all equestrians know quite well) was essential to our survival.
Over time as we humans evolved we phased ourselves out of the food web, but our hardwired flight or fight response has remained. Now, when we step into the ring with our horses, the same mechanism is at play, just on a different level.
Whether it's performance related or just not liking being the only one in the ring with all eyes on you, nerves can be a factor for everyone and most riders have dealt with horse show nerves at some point during their riding career.
Here are six ways I beat my horse show nerves
Get enough rest
That may sound obvious, but being a bundle of nervous energy can be exhausting. So the night or two before a horse show, make sure you get enough rest. A well-rested body and mind will aid in a better performance
Again, this may sound obvious, but I'm a big proponent of inhaling big, deep breaths and exhaling slowly a few times to help clear your mind. However, it's not just an exercise for the mind; with every deep breath you take, you release endorphins, a natural pain killer, to help soothe your body.
Focus on your performance
No matter what's going on around you at the show, focus on your ride. Don't focus on the win or the ribbons, focus on you, your horse and your ride. Each time you step into the ring you should be working toward your best round. Instead of pressuring yourself to ride for the win, make the goal of the show to have your best round.
Don't allow yourself to get psyched out by other horse/rider combinations. You are there to show off your horse and your talent. Stay focused on what's required for you and your horse to be confident and put in that stellar round.
Know you're prepared
Only you and your trainer know what work you've put in to get you and your horse ready for the show. Know that you've done what you can to prepare.
Visualize and think positive
Once you've learned your course or your test, visualize yourself performing well. Ride each jump or movement in your mind. This goes hand in hand with knowing you're prepared. As you go around the course in your mind, know you can get down the lines, swap leads, trot jump or whatever else is asked of you because you have prepared.
Don't allow yourself to have negative thoughts - think positive. Exchange thoughts like "Oh, I hope I don't chip." with "Establishing a good pace will help get the correct striding." and "I don't want to mess up at the in-and-out." with "Set up early and use leg to move up for the two stride."
What do you do to help beat horse show nerves?