Competing with your horse can be great fun and most of us would love to bring home a rosette. However, for many riders, the thought of entering the ring can also be a scary prospect.
Having a few nerves is actually a good thing – you need a certain level of them to perform at your best, and any fear will probably fade once your round is underway. However, if your nerves get too much, they can impair your performance dramatically, so it’s important to have strategies in place to minimise and manage them.
It’s easy to mistake the adrenaline rush you feel in the face of competition for fear. Accept it, rather than getting nervous about being nervous.
The right routine
Find out what suits you best before your class. Do you need the distraction of being around other people, or do you prefer taking a few quiet minutes to collect your thoughts? If you’re travelling with other people, make sure they’re aware, too, so they can accommodate you.
Work out how much time you need to get your horse ready and warmed up so you can have a routine in place – much of this comes from experience, so keep an eye on your watch so you know for next time. It’s always better to have a little extra time in case something doesn’t go to plan, but too long sitting around can give you time to stew.
Face the music
Professional athletes from a range of sports use music to help get them in the right mindset for performance. Studies show that listening to music can help to reduce anxiety by regulating the amount of cortisol – the stress hormone – that your brain is producing. The right music can also alter your mood, making you feel more positive or motivated – this could be because the lyrics are inspiring, you associate the song with feeling happy or simply because the rhythm makes you feel energised.
Pick up a copy of JuneHorse&Rider, on sale 2 May, for more top tips on how you can boost your confidence.