The Magazine December 2019

Overcoming stage fright

Posted 30th January 2020

Does the thought of riding in front of an audience make your stomach churn? Worry not – with H&R on hand, you’ll be filled with confidence and facing your fears in no time

out competing

Do you find yourself planning your riding sessions around the quietest times of the day? The pull of early-morning or evening rides can be all too tempting if you want the school to yourself – none of us are immune to the ride-derailing tendencies of a ‘quick chat’ with a horsey pal. However, if your motivation to avoid riding around others stems from a place of fear, it’s time to do something about it.

Feeling the pressure when riding with an audience is common and, when left unaddressed, can lead to avoiding lessons, competitions, or even the joy of riding out in company. So, let’s nip it in the bud.

The ‘what if?’ factor

Anxiety when riding in front of others is often linked to insecurities about your ability and other people’s perceptions of you. These worries encourage you to predict and focus on worst-case scenarios, convincing you that this negative experience will come true.

These predictions and fears are set into motion when you start asking yourself ‘what if something goes wrong?’ Sadly, this question often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We all know how fear affects our riding – tension and reduced focus are just some of the unwanted side-effects – and the worry caused by imagining the worst only serves to hamper you and make riding in front of an audience even more difficult to achieve.

Thankfully, though, there’s a way out of the ‘what if?’ scenario. With a little practice, preparation, positive thinking, and a quick look at the facts, riding with and in front of others can become a positive experience.

What if people are judging me?

Public image – it’s something many of us are concerned about and it’s understandable to want to give off a good impression. Therefore, it’s especially important to remember that other competitors are only watching to get their bearings. Think about why you’ve watched a few riders before your turn comes. Was it to cement the order of jumps or movements in your mind, or to make nasty comments about other people? Our money’s on the former.

Don’t let your nerves get in the way of your riding, find out more in Spring Horse&Rider, on sale 6 February.

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