Conquer Horse Show
The following article was inspired by a rider who told me, "I have a
wonderful, talented thoroughbred. We can do Second and Third level work at
home, yet when we compete, we can barely get through a First Level test. The
missing link seems to be relaxation. My horse is off the track, and we seem
to feed off each other's tension. How does a normally tense person learn to
It's even a good idea to braid and put on your show clothes to simulate a
competition. I remember one horse that would warm up beautifully, but as
soon as I went around the ring, he'd get tense. I didn't think I was making
him tense, but I would consistently "lose him" between the warm-up and the
This rider is right in thinking that relaxation is her priority. When you're
tense, your work can't be of as high a quality as when you're relaxed.
That's true for both horses and riders. Sure, a certain rush of adrenalin is
normal and even welcome. But when you're so tense that you feel immobilized,
you've got a problem. Here are some tips to help you relax at shows.
1. First, try to figure out why you get so nervous at shows. Are you worried
about what people think of you? Have you put unrealistic pressure on
yourself to win? Are you afraid you won't measure up to the expectations of
others? If those are the kinds of things that make you nervous, focus on
"performance goals" rather than "result goals". In other words, rather than
having a goal of scoring 65% or placing in the top 3, make a new goal that
reflects your effort rather than the outcome. For example, how about sitting
elegantly and quietly, or remembering to breathe, or maintaining a
metronome-like rhythm for an entire test?
2. Do you ride defensively because you're afraid that your horse will be
fresh at a new place? If so, go to the show a day early. Work your horse on
the long line so he can get his bucks out of his system. Take him out of the
stall several times for hand walks or grazing around the arenas. You'll be
amazed at how grazing your horse calms him down. By the time you ride, he
should be as comfortable with his new surroundings as he is at home.
3. Stage some dress rehearsals. Drive to neighboring farms; take your horse
off the trailer, warm-up, and do a practice test. Do this often enough that
going to a new place and "performing" gets to be old hat for both of you.
I finally figured out that I never wore my shad belly jacket with its long
tails during the warm up. When I finally put my coat on, the tails brushed
his sides, and he'd catch a glimpse of them moving out of the corner of his
eye. These new sensations scared him. So for several weeks, I pinned a large
bath towel to the back of the saddle pad. When he moved, the towel flapped
against his body, and he could see it waving. He soon got used to it, and
our problem went away.
4. Use humor to break up tension. Go to shows with friends who get silly and
make you laugh. The less intense you are, the more fun you'll have. Go
around the arena and as you pass the judge, think to yourself, "Hey, Baby!
Get ready to have your socks knocked off!" Hear the bell and say under your
breath, "Oh, Yippee! It's my turn!" Come down the centerline, see the judge
sitting in the trailer, and visualize that you're going to put the tailgate
up so she can't see you. Do whatever goofy thing helps you to dissipate
5. Think about what happens to you physically when you're tense. Muscles get
tight while respiration and heart rate increase. The good news is that with
a little work, you can regulate all of these reactions.
Let's address muscle tension first. Understand that the more you tighten a
muscle, the more deeply it relaxes when you let go. To learn the feeling of
muscular relaxation, sit in a chair and tense every muscle in your body.
Hold the tension until your body quivers. Then let go and feel yourself
sinking heavily down into your chair.
Now, go through this process starting at your head and working down to your
feet section by section. Each time you release the tension in a muscle
group, anchor this feeling of deep relaxation, by saying the words "let go".
Eventually as you ride, you can scan your body for tight places. "Talk" to
that area with your cue words. For example, say out loud, "Neck--Let go."
Wrists--Leg go." "Legs--Let go."
6. Now, let's talk about breathing. Normally, when you're tense, your
respiration becomes more rapid and shallow. You might even find that you
occasionally hold your breath. You can be sure that if you do this, you'll
transmit your tension to your horse.
So, practice deep breathing. As you inhale through your nose, keep your
shoulders down and let your stomach get "fat". As you exhale through your
mouth, feel your seat lowering into the saddle so that you "dissolve" into
your horse's body. Consciously breathe like this when you first get on,
during every break, and as you go around the outside of the arena. In fact,
one of your performance goals can be to take a deep breath in every corner.
7. You can also train yourself to regulate your heart rate by using the
stress and recovery cycle that occurs during exercise. Go for a
twenty-minute walk and periodically increase your heart rate by walking
faster or even jogging for 10-30 seconds. Each time you slow back down to a
comfortable walk and feel your heart rate and breathing returning to normal,
anchor this feeling with a specific cue. Pick a cue that you can use easily
when you ride. For example, clear your throat, touch your thumb to your
forefinger, or tap your fists together. Then when you feel tense at shows,
you can use your cue to slow your heart rate because you've trained yourself
to do so.
You're not alone. Everyone gets tense when competing. Contrary to popular
opinion, professionals are not immune to sweaty palms and rubbery legs. But
the exciting thing is that you can learn to deal with your anxiety so that
you can still do your job well and enjoy yourself. All it takes is some
handy tools in your toolbox.
Are you sick and tired of complicated and confusing training techniques? Are
you frustrated by negative emotions like fear and lack of confidence? Would
you like to be trained by a Three Time Olympic Coach? Learn how by going to:
Find This Site
Then please click on the picture
and refer this site to a friend
How to Stay Safe Horseback Riding
might surprise you to know that an estimated 30 million
Americans ride horses each year
and that more than
2,300 American riders under the age of 25 years are
hospitalized annually because of horseback-riding
injuries. Isn't that a shocking statistic?
addresses the issues of safety both whilst riding and
looking after your horse on the ground
For full details click