I can spot it a mile away. That blank stare on a rider’s face as they are about to enter the show pen or walk into the herd. Nerves are a common problem for all levels of riders, from the beginning novice to the top professionals. They can control us unless we learn to control them. One of the greatest trainers of all time, Matlock Rose, was asked if he still got nervous at big shows. He answered, “Yes, If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t do it!””¨ Part of why we compete is for the “rush”. Controlling your nerves can make your show experience even better and raise you to a higher level. Here are some things that have helped me and some of my friends that compete:
1. Be Prepared- Don’t add unnecessary stress by not being prepared. Some riders even make a list of all of the things they need to get done prior to a show.
2. Visualize- Study and know your pattern and/or visualize your optimum run.
3. Ask yourself why you are there- You should be showing because you like it, want to be reinforced for your hard work, or want to see where you are at.
4. Have realistic expectations- Enjoy the moment, and only show your horse to the level he or she is at.
5. Focus- Think of one maneuver at a time, take baby steps, and don’t get ahead of yourself.
6. Remember how it feels to win- If you’ve been lucky enough to be successful in the past, remember that feeling. It will keep you motivated.
7. Positive self-talk-Tell yourself the truth…nobody really cares how you do but you! You CAN do this, and you will survive.
8. Watch the videos of your good runs many times, and the bad ones only once- Sometimes I’ll watch the videos of my bad runs to improve, but I will definitely watch my good runs for positive motivation.
9. Breathe- Breathing is important for relaxation, concentration, and life in general!
Remember, it is only going to take one or two good experiences to erase a bad one from your memory. So go out there and make it happen!
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This article previously published by Al Dunning on November 4, 2011. Reposted on Facebook May 28, 2014.
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