5 tips on how to prepare yourself mentally for a show


Competing is never easy. Even top professional sports people need help with their mental state when it comes to competition. Being able to do something well does not mean you can compete well. When you enter a competition the emphasis shifts from pure ability to mental ability as well. Successful competition is 50% mental and 50% ability.

All your training has been done; you and your horse are in peak physical condition to compete. Here are some tips that will help you on the day of the competition.

1. Get organized

Plan your logistics well in advance.

  • Know the best route to the show grounds.
  • Establish how you will get to the show grounds.
  • If you need to box to the grounds, book a horse box well in advance and make sure you have a vehicle and person to tow the box.
  • Know how far away the show grounds are and what time you need to leave to get there well in advance.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary equipment and supplies ready.
  • Aim to arrive about 1 hour before you have to ride.

Being well organised on the day is the best way to keep yourself calm. The last thing you want is to be running around on the day of a show looking for tack and trying to organize logistics. This will just stress you out unnecessarily.

2. Practice boxing in advance

Boxing your horse can be a stressful moment. Some horses box easily and calmly. Some don’t. If your horse is not used to boxing; practice in advance. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Make sure the horse box is open as possible. If it has a front door open it to let the light in. Make sure all dividing panels etc are out of the way.
  • Once your horse is in the box reward them – you can give them lunch in the box or a treat while in the box. This will create a good feeling for them about being in a box.

3. Warm up strategy

The horse that you are riding has strengths and weaknesses. You need to know what these are and address them in your warm up. For example: if your horse isn’t used to travelling and being in new places take them for a walk around the show ground prior to entering the warm up arena. Show him or her where they are; let him or her look at things and smell them.  Or if your horse is stiff to one side do some exercises that will help release this, like riding small circles.

4. Spend quiet time with your horse

Take a few minutes, either before or after your warm up, to spend some quiet time with your horse. This will give you a chance to breathe, relax and focus. The calmer you are, as the rider, the more at ease your horse will be.

5. Moral support

Our friends and families are often keen supporters of our riding. But make sure that the people around you on a show day are helping, and not hindering, your progress. Family, friends, even instructors can stress you out on the day. You can manage them by asking politely what you need from them and explaining that you need no more.

Stay focused, stay calm and good luck. Remember competition is about mental strength as well as ability.

“The blog is the personal opinion and views of the author. It contains general information and may contain inaccuracies. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor on your own specific situation and circumstances.”

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