10 Tips for Competition Nerves


We have all been there the early morning start, endless cleaning and excessive amounts of kit. It can only be one thing… show day! After the weeks of preparation for whatever level of competition, it all boils down to those few minutes in the spotlight. Here are my tips to maximizing your performance and battling those competition nerves.


1.      Practice, practice, practice
This goes without saying, whatever you’re competing in, practice is key. Practice the dressage test, show jumps or your show. Try and make the conditions as similar as you can to when you compete, this will keep you and your horse at ease, as whatever the day throws at you there will still be some familiarity.

2.      Be prepared and plan
If you know your start time, work backwards and plan everything that needs to be done before then I.e. What time you’ll leave the yard etc. Also have a plan of what could be done in the week before the show e.g. Organizing tack, so there is less to focus on, on the day, making it run more smoothly. You will get better at your routine the more shows you do, tweak accordingly with what works for you.

3.      Accept you’re nervous 
We can all get nerves for a multitude of reasons but often trying to hide them can make them worse. Sometimes admitting to yourself that you’re nervous but reminding yourself you’re prepared and it is okay to be nervous is all you need. Some nerves are good to help you perform well, but too many can hinder your performance.
4.      Enjoy it
Whether you come home with a rosette or not, it does not matter. The main reason you’re competing should be for your enjoyment, and if you return home satisfied you’ve enjoyed yourself and can improve next time you compete then you’ve had a successful day.


5.      Be confident or pretend to be

Being confident in yourself will influence your horse. For example, if you are approaching a scary filler with confidence that you can go over it, your horse will feel more assured jumping it and less likely to refuse it. Even if you’re not confident pretend you are.

6.      Have an alter ego  
Beyoncé assumes an alter ego, Sasha Fierce when she goes on stage to perform. Although you are not likely to be singing to large crowds in a riding competition… Why not create your own show persona, to bring confidence when you compete?

7.      Don’t worry about your competitors
Focus on you. Whether there is the most immaculately turned out horse or naughty pony in the warm up it doesn’t matter. You can’t control how they do, so keep your attention on your horse and the job in hand.

8.      Bring along some support
Having someone you trust in the sidelines while you ride can be assuring. Whether they’re horsey or non-horsey, having someone on the ground for moral support, tack alterations and taking photos and videos can be just what you need to take some of the pressure off.

9.      Imagine your trainer in your ear
You haven’t paid for a trainer to just throw everything you have learnt out the window when you compete. Think about your position in the saddle and how your horse feels beneath you, and remember what your instructor is always nagging you about. Focusing on these things can distract you from your nerves.

10.     Finally Relax
This one is easier said than done, try not to get too caught up in the day and be sure to enjoy it. And remember to breathe!



Connie Haigh, Select 18



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