Handling Show Nerves For Horse and Rider

Flash Lightning Bolt Saddle

When you go to a show to compete are you a confident rider who is prepared, or are you a nervous wreck? What about your horse? Is your horse relaxed and confident or is she a bundle of nerves as well?

Nervousness is one of the hardest aspects of showing to overcome for riders and horses alike. Not only are you in a new environment, but there’s the added pressure of doing well in competition.

The first rule of showing is to always remember that your horse is a mirror of your mood that day. If you’re nervous, your horse is going to pick up on that energy and they’ll be nervous as well. Horses need a confident strong leader that they can trust and follow. Pay attention to your moods and thoughts. Make a conscious effort to remain calm and confident even if you’re not. By choosing to be calm, your horse will read that energy and find confidence in you, and will start to relax.

One way to bring about calmness even when you are nervous is to take deep, slow breaths. This helps to release the tension in your body. Horses read body language and if they hear the deep breaths, they see it as a sign that you’re relaxed.

Preparation produces confidence. Don’t wait until the day of the show to clean your tack or load your trailer. Last minute preparations have a way of causing anxiety. Do as much as you can in advance so that the day of the show you’re not rushed.

Being early also helps with confidence. If you know you have plenty of time to get you and your horse ready, you’ll be more relaxed. Get good directions and leave early enough to arrive in plenty of time to groom and warm up your horse before your class. This will help keep the nerves at bay.

Plan your show day well in advance and determine a strategy for you and your horse that day. When does your horse need to be fed? When do you need to warm her up? How much warm up does she need? How long will it take to groom her? How far in advance do you need to be ready for your class? Knowing how your day is planned will help alleviate show nerves because you know exactly what you need to do and when.

The right amount of warm up for your horse is essential to calming your horse’s nerves. Too much warm up and you may not have enough horse left to compete. Too little warm up and your horse may have too much energy and look at everything in sight, which of course, makes you more nervous as well. Take the time to know your horse and what length of warm up time your horse needs.

It’s normal to have a certain amount of butterflies in your stomach competing at something that you love. However, making a conscious effort to have a good attitude, and then taking the proper steps to prepare, will help you and your horse have a great show experience.