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17 June 2022

Two things you can do now to help you beat show day nerves

Two things you can do now to help you beat show day nerves

For many riders, nerves are part and parcel of competing — some people even go as far as saying that a few competition day nerves sharpens them up and helps them ride at their best on the big day. But for others, nerves — or butterflies, jitters, flutters, fear, whatever you choose to call it — can be crippling and do the opposite, making you less effective in the saddle, lack confidence and feeling unable to enjoy riding at all.

Before triumphing over any opposition on competition day, first we must defeat any demons in our minds in the shape of confidence crises. It happens to the best of us, so if you’re suffering from a loss of confidence remember you are definitely not alone. Equestrian mindset coach Sophie Green shares two exercises for controlling competition nerves to help you enjoy competing more so that you can arrive at your event ready to do your best — and most importantly have fun.

1 Construct a circle of confidence

The circle of confidence exercise is a great one to do when you’re about to get on at a competition or at home. The whole process need take only seconds, and no one needs to know that you’re doing it.

The other great thing about doing this exercise before you ride is that it slows you down. Sometimes we are great at rushing through everything, particularly at a competition, and that won’t help your nerves.

The exercise:

  1. Imagine you have a circle in front of you.
  2. Imagine you have several jars of desirable emotions, for example confidence, calmness, and control.
  3. Imagine tipping your desired emotion – or several of them – into your circle.
  4. Imagine taking a step into your circle, take a deep breath and imagine those desired emotions soaking up into your body through the soles of your feet all the way up to the top of your head.
  5. You’re now ready to step out of your circle and get on with the job in hand, full of confidence, calmness or whichever your desired outcome was.

2 Write a proof list

A proof list, which you could also call a success list, is a list of at least ten things that you have achieved in your life that you can be proud of. They don’t have to be big, life-changing events, but something which makes you think “if I can do that, then I can definitely do this”.

Once you have a proof list written down, you can keep referring to it regularly or whenever you are having negative or doubtful thoughts. This can help you to help rationalise and control these thoughts to help you realise how capable you are.

You can also form affirmations around each point on your list; affirmations are positive statements about yourself beginning with “I am”. It might be something as simple as “I am a good rider” or “I am successful”. These affirmations might feel a bit odd at first, because you might not believe them, but over time that feeling will improve and you will start to believe in the statements more and more.

Meet the expert: Sophie Green is a certified life coach and NLP practitioner. She specialises as an equestrian mindset coach, helping riders of all levels and disciplines to find a fresh mindset to make progress with their horse. 

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