As a lot of riders may do, we all loose our bottle at least once! I lost mine hugely a couple of years ago and it has only just crept back! I simply lost it xc schooling, we popped a few fences and started linking some together, I approached a trakehner, didn’t look twice at it, and my horse stopped, throwing me onto the log landing on my back, and stupidly I didn’t let go of the reins, so in shock my horse ran backwards with me hanging on, therefore resulting with me landing head first in a crumple in the ditch below, since then that has been my bogey fence!
After re-mounting we jumped straight over the fence and carried on, however that was the trigger moment that at that time I didn’t realise would have such an impact on me for the next year or two! For a while after, on approach to any fence whether it be showjump or xc, I felt myself freeze about two strides in and could not see a stride to save my life.
I’ve spoken to so many people and seen so many other riders post on social media regarding competition stress or some call it anxiety! Until you have had a knockback it’s so hard to understand. Feeling sick when your alarm goes off on the morning of a competition, debating if you actually want to go, dreading arriving the entire lorry journey there, getting stressed tacking up and not knowing what to worry about first, if you’re going to make your times, remember your test, remember the show-jumping course, get over that scary filler, get over the scary fence on the xc course, what will people think if we don’t place or get eliminated?!. These things and many more race through your mind eating away at you all day and during the run up to the day.
You begin to wonder how you’ve gone from racing around at pony club jumping everything in sight and not caring if you fall off, have a run out or your pony stops, because you’d laugh it off and pony club kick them on!
Most stress is due to the pressure we put on ourselves to perform well in front of others, the best step I ever made was to stop caring what others are doing and focus on what I am doing and do it the best I can. If people around me are moving on faster than me, who cares, I want to be good at the level I’m currently at. The best thing is to keep going out and doing it over and over again, at a level you’re comfortable at, then start to slowly push yourself out of your comfort zone and your confidence will soon creep back. Practice makes perfect, so whatever it is that triggers your stress, do it as often as possible so it just becomes second nature for you and your horse!
A couple of tips I’ve come up with that I use when competing to keep calm;
- Write a list, including; address of destination, length of time to get there (obviously allow extra time for travelling with horse), times, time I need to be on for each phase, everything I need to take!
- When you start to get anxious, take a deep breath and tell yourself you’re just being silly
- Remember how much you enjoy it when you actually get on board
- Don’t over think things, if your start to, start a conversation with someone, or turn the radio up to distract your thoughts
Hope this helps, any other tips you have to feel free to share on instagram ‘oliviamay_x’