Overcoming Show Day Nerves

The show season is well and truly upon us. Hours and hours of work goes into preparing our horses so naturally, we’re going to be nervous about the day itself. It means something to us so why shouldn’t we be? Nerves can often be perceived as a really negative feeling, but actually, if we weren’t passionate about doing what we love, we probably wouldn’t feel nervous at all. We’re all about embracing those butterflies, getting them under control and using them to your advantage. We’ve put together our top tips for conquering those show day nerves.

  1. Accept them – The sooner that you recognise your nerves the sooner you can try to overcome them. Try and pinpoint exactly what you’re worried about. Is it the thought of your horse underperforming, people watching you, falling off? The sooner you pinpoint exactly what’s causing the nerves the sooner you can rationalise your thoughts.
  2. Prepare – If you’re feeling nervy about show day, the last thing you need is to be running around like a headless chicken on the morning of your competition. Plan well in advance, from knowing your class times, preparing your horse and getting your kit ready.
  3. Don’t be a control freak – Although there are some aspects of the day that you can prepare for, you cannot control every part of it. Your horse is a live animal with its own mind and you can’t control the way he’ll react to outside influences. Don’t overthink the scenarios that you have no control over.
  4. Set personal goals and focus on them – Depending on your experience, what you want to achieve may differ.  Whether it’s a clear round or being crowned champion, have a clear goal in your head. Set out to beat your personal best each time you compete. Set this as your main focus, the more you do this, the less time there is for negative thoughts to creep in.
  5. Visualise – think about the goal you’ve set out and visualise yourself achieving it. Use your mind to vividly imagine every tiny detail from tacking up, to receiving your winning rosette. The more detail you visualise the better. Repeat the visualisation over and over in your head until it feels real.
  6. Positive attitude – If we’re feeling stressed about competition day it’s likely that we’re imagining the worse. We focus on the what could go wrong and tell ourselves that we’re not going to do very well. Instead of focusing on this negative outcome before you’ve even started, try to have some confidence in yourself. Tell yourself you can do it! Think it enough and you’ll soon start to realise it’s true!
  7. Breathing techniques – We have a tendency to hold our breath when we get nervous which impedes our performance. It may seem like we breathe without thinking about it, but the truth is the more thought we put into it, the better our body can cope with anxiety and stress. Try breathing deeply in through your nose letting your stomach fill with air, hold and breath out again through your nose. As you inhale imagine your body is filling with calmness. Try this technique throughout the day to calm your nerves.
  8. Attend as a spectator – Why not try spectating at a similar show? This way you’ll get a really good idea of how your day is likely to pan out and what to expect. It may even help you with your visualisation technique.
  9. Learn from your mistakes – Mistakes aren’t such a terrible thing. Take any mistakes that you might make as a lesson. They’re a tool for you to be able to improve on for next time. They help you to focus, prepare in advanced and set personal goals.

The biggest piece of advice of all is to ENJOY! After all, this is your hobby, it’s what you love to do. The more you use these tips to overcome your nerves, the more you’ll enjoy your day. If you’ve got any tips we’d love to hear them in the comments.

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