This is a great subject and something I hear often from riders, so I feel it deserves to be addressed in an article.
Anxiety and nervousness affect riders at all skill levels, but this doesn’t have to hold you back. Anyone can learn how to be successful even if they are nervous at times. Nervousness comes from negative thinking and will always challenge your confidence. If you can learn how to think positively, you can overcome your nervousness by replacing it with a confident attitude and approach. If you are nervous because you are uncertain about your ability, this will change as you improve and become more competent at the various maneuvers.
Here are three ways to conquer nerves in the show ring:
#1 Have a Caller in the Ring
I’ve found one of the best ways to help you feel more confident is having someone go in the ring with you and call out your test. Make sure that you practice with your caller at home before your show. This way you will feel comfortable with their voice and the timing when calling out maneuvers. After you get some shows under your belt, I suggest that you learn the test and ride it without a caller, but this is a great first step for building confidence.
#2 Do your Homework
Learn to how to concentrate on both yourself and your horse. You need to master each segment of the test. Practice at home and during your warm up before you compete. I also suggest that you take a blank piece of paper and write each component of the test. Then, next to each component write down the aids that you are going to use for each figure or transition. You will notice remarks like gait quality, willingness, straightness and balance next to the corresponding movements.
Make some personal comments that you are going to remember. For example, movement one has you enter, halt, salute and proceed. Perhaps you could write in the corresponding comments box: “Look up at the judge, breathe, smile, prepare for halt with half halt, crisp trot, flexion to prepare for turn at C.”
Pick two or three tips that are most suited to what you need to remember for each movement. This is a great process for anyone because it challenges you to ride your horse better in or out of the show ring. You already know that when you ride better, it allows your nerves settle and builds your confidence.
#3 Walk your Test at the Show
When the arena is available, go in the ring and walk your test without your horse. Go through each maneuver mentally as you walk it. This is the best tip that I learned from my friend, Jane Savoie, regarding how to improve the accuracy of the test and to gain confidence.
If you still feel the flutter of nerves before you go into the ring on show day, remind yourself that the judge wants you to do well. If you have any challenges, just remember to work through them positively. Keep riding ahead, as you can’t do anything about what happened during your previous ride, or even 30 seconds ago. Also, remember that your horse knows every word you are thinking! Be confident and turn any negative thoughts into positive ones.
Jane Savoie has written a great book, “That Winning Feeling,” which I highly recommend. When you visit our websites at www.lynnpalm.com and www.shoplynnpalm.com , you’ll find plenty of helpful learning materials and information, including Dressage Illustrated books. You can follow along with what I suggest for both English dressage and Western dressage.
We love to share our dressage backgrounds and knowledge with you and would love to have you come ride with us. You can join us at our farm in Ocala, Florida, or at one of our Ride Well Clinics on our USA Tour at a location near you.
If you would like to train with Lynn & Cyril at home with Western Dressage, take advantage of the following supportive training materials:
Head To Toe Horsemanship
Western Dressage—A Guide to Take You to Your First Show
A Rider Guide to Real Collection,
“Dressage Principles for the Western Horse & Rider” Volume 1 Parts 1-5
“Dressage Principles for the Western & English Horse & Rider” Volume 2,Parts 1-3
“Let Your Horse Be Your Teacher” Parts 1&2,
For more information on these training materials and more, as well as clinics, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call us at 800-503-2824.