How can I keep calm before a competition with my horse?

Does your heart rate shoot up as soon as you set foot on the showground? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While it’s common to feel nervous before a competition, it shouldn’t get in the way of you enjoying yourself with your horse. Here to explain a few simple strategies to keep calm is equine confidence coach, Helen Rennie.

Feeling nervous and tense before a competition is a common problem and there are steps that you can take to regain control.

It’s important to pay attention to when you first start to notice the signs of feeling nervous. This is key to preventing small, early nerves from escalating.

Reflect on your most recent competition and how you felt at each stage – the night before, when you woke in the morning, when you travelled to the competition, when you arrived at the venue, and when you warmed up.

When did the nerves start and when did they get out of control?

Pinpoint the stress

Usually a problem with nerves starts at one or more of these key points. If you can pinpoint the moment when you notice yourself feeling anxious or nervous, then you’re halfway to solving the problem.

Once identified, it’s about using an effective relaxation technique. Timing and technique are both equally important in your strategy and both have to be suitable for the rider and the problem they're experiencing.

If you become so nervous that you start to hyperventilate, you should try the following relaxation techniques.

Breathe slow 

Whenever you notice yourself becoming nervous, breathe in and count to four, hold it for four and breathe out for seven. This will slow your breathing down and help you to relax

Find a quiet moment 

Before you compete, find somewhere you can sit quietly and focus on your breathing.

Bring your attention to the cool air going in through your nose as you breathe in and the warm air going out through your nose as you breathe out.

Next, focus on the pause that occurs just after you finish breathing out. This will help quieten your mind and give you space to focus on calm breathing. 

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