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[ Fighting Competition Nerves ]The dressage qualifying season is in full swing and everyone is eager to get out with their horses, especially after all the extra restrictions that complicated last year’s shows. But, with all these competitions comes a lot of nerves, for the horse and the rider. Today, I’m going to share with you some tips, from both a competitor and instructor perspective; this is how I maintain a calm and focused mindset for success, despite natural anxiety. Though these tips are specifically geared towards dressage and equestrian events, they can also be used for other sports.
Before we begin it’s important to recognize that feeling nervous is a good thing; when we feel this way it shows that we care. In regards to equestrian events, it also helps us stay alert and at the ready if our horse tries to spook or does something else unexpected. However, we can not let our emotions hinder our performance or get to our horse.
Something that you need to take into account is that you will probably have to try out different ideas before you find one that will work the best in the long run. Be a student of yourself; work to educate yourself about potential reactions that you minght have. This will take time, but metal preparation can help.
Don’t Let it Get to You
The main concept of fighting nerves is not to let external factors from the environment around get to you; if you start to feel nervous your horse will too. You have to learn to control your body so that when you get nervous your body does not tense up and more importantly your horse does not feel your fear. Also when your body is all tensed up you may not be about to ride your very best.
This is huge. You have to picture you and your horse doing all the movements correctly. Go through the test and think about what you need to focus on during each of the movements; write them down if it helps. It is also helpful to watch videos of riders and horses you want to be like.
This is super important for getting into the right mindset quickly. It requires a lot of practice and energy put towards practice outside of specific training. This is something that everyone does their own way and you just have to find yours through trial and error. There are tons of apps and other resources you can also access, particularly online.
There are a couple breathing exercises you can do to help you relax your body and align with your focus. Again you have to find your own way of doing things, but I personally have two favorites; both of them come naturally. One that I really like is to simply breath in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. It is Amazing how well this works; I truly feel refreshed and focused and most importantly relaxed. Another one is merely a variation. You breathe in deeply through your nose, counting to three and then let it out. These exercises are super simple, but they really can make a difference in a stressful moment.
Just do your best
I know everyone says this, but it’s so true; just do your best. There is something so grounding about knowing that at the end of the day, all we can do is our best. And really this is all that should matter; it does not matter if you won the class or came dead last. What really matters is that you did the absolute best you could have done despite the circumstances. It does not matter if your horse spooked or something else that was out of your control happened. What matters that you gave it your all. And in the end, you’ll find that those rides, when you can truly say you did your best, those are the rides that will bring you the most joy.
Until next time
The Collected Girl