Combat competition nerves

Eventer Simon Grieve helps you combat your nerves and achieve your competing goals

Simple tips and carefuly preparation can help you enjoy every event

Simple tips and carefuly preparation can help you enjoy every event

Fight your nerves
“Even with solid preparation, nerves can still creep up on us. Doubts come into our minds – our own lack of ability, letting our horse or others down, making a fool of ourselves, failure, jumps being too big, dressage tests too difficult, the apprehension of hurting ourselves. As a young
lad, I struggled with my nerves, but plenty of practice and exposure to nerve-racking situations has really helped. I can now channel my nerves to help, rather than hinder me. So, if you’re ever in doubt remember – practice makes perfect.”

Eat smart
“The correct diet will help boost your performance. Stay away from caffeine, as this heightens your heart rate and can increase anxiety, and try to eat in plenty of time beforehand - an empty tummy will increase that stomach-churning feeling.”

Prepare for success
“In preparation for Burghley, I competed at numerous international events, but my horse Cornacrew and I both started at the bottom, competing at BE90 level. Having come up through the grades slowly we both have a solid confidence in our own abilities. Every rider needs to do this to compete at any level, and this preparation starts at home with the basics. You need to work through these with your trainer, who is the crutch for many a rider in the battle against nerves.”

Keep breathing!
“It sounds silly, but it’s easy to forget to breathe! Breathing exercises are a great way of controlling your nerves, especially when you’re about to go in the ring, down that centre line or out of the start box. Long slow breaths help to calm your heightened heart rate and expel that twisted stomach.”

Enjoy every moment
“It’s important to try and remember that most of us ride and compete for fun. As I walked to the start at Burghley I reminded myself that there are lots of people who would love to be as lucky as me. So remember, your check list is: prepare well, focus solely on you and your horse, take advice from those you know and trust, visualise your performance in a positive manner, allow yourself plenty of time, breathe, and remember – this is fun!”

Focus on you
“Burghley was a situation I’ve never experienced before – not only was
I nervous, but I saw numerous experienced riders who were clearly feeling the same as I was. I’ve found the best thing to do in these situations is to blank out other competitors. Focus entirely on your own performance, and the thoughts of you, your trainer and any positive supporters. Being influenced by negative thoughts of others is not positive. You know your horse and your own ability and you mustn’t be influenced by other people’s doubts.”

Know your course
“Think through the course or exercise in your mind. I find it helps to go and sit away from everyone and run through the course, jumping each fence perfectly in my mind. For each phase of Burghley I allowed plenty of time to get ready. If you end up rushing you’ll get yourself flustered and therefore your horse too.”