Every rider will cope with nerves differently, with some getting more nervous than others. But remember it is normal to get nervous!
I remember when I first started to event I couldn’t really get much sleep the night before and certainly couldn’t eat on the morning of competition! But now I’ve done more in the competition environment I’ve trained myself how to cope with the neves. So now there’s nothing like stopping at a fuel station or McDonalds on the way to the event for some breakfast!
DRESSAGE: remembering the test, is my horse on the bit, what’s the judge going to think of us?! Whether you can afford or fit lessons in, always prepare well. Find out what test you’re doing at the competition and thoroughly learn it!
REMEMBER TO BREATH!, it relaxes you as a rider and it will also help your horse relax.
Stick to the same warm up routine you do at home to when you’re warming up at the competition, it’s too late to change anything so keep it as similar as you can to what you normally do.
Allow yourself plenty of time, to check in with the steward to find out what arena you’re in etc.
SHOW JUMPING: It can be important to find out whether that particular event is running on times or put your number down on arrival as each event varies, and there’s nothing like turning up and the steward saying your next to go!
If you have time or an opportunity to walk the course then do, it’s very useful to find out distances, lines and of course to learn the course!
Do enough so your horse and you are comfortable and confident, however, don’t over jump in the warm up, save the jump for in the ring.
When entering the ring don’t be in a rush to get to the first fence, even if the bell has gone, pop in a circle or a gear change to get the canter you want or briefly show him/her that spooky filler!
I would particularly get more nervous show jumping getting worried what people might think of me, but I had to train myself to think people are most likely there to watch and learn the course rather than there watching and judging you! REMEMBER TO BREATH!
CROSS COUNTRY: Again have plenty of time to get your number down and find out how many you have until it’s your go.
If your times are quite close together your horse is already warmed up and has jumped so don’t over do it. Jump the fences in a straight line to get your horse’s eye into seeing a xc fence then pop them on an angle to really get you and your horse on a line to a fence between your hand and leg.
Having walked the course you will know what fences are easier/ more challenging for you or your horse, so think about what your thinking going into them, Positive Mental Attitude!
If you’re worried then your horse will be too.
One of my favourite mottos: I can so I will, not I can’t so I won’t.
If your day doesn’t go completely to plan, so long as you’re both alright, remember there’s always another day!
At the end of the day they are horses not machines and anything can happen.
Stay strong believe in yourself and onwards and upwards! Good luck!!
Photo credit Anthony Ball Photography and Tanzy Lee