Strategies for horse show nerves

Finn and I are going to the BIG (as in hundreds of horses) Regional Championship show in a few weeks, and I must confess: I’m intimidated.


Warmup rings with big horses don’t bother us, but a big show…well, that’s another story.

So how do we handle horse show nerves so that we can do our best?

SET REALISTIC GOALS. I don’t go to these Regionals expecting to win. Instead, I am going to experience a Big Show and to improve my scores (hopefully). Finn and I have made good progress in our training this summer and I think we can put in some good tests if I keep my concentration.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.14.40 PMMAKE LISTS, lots of lists. We’ll be there four days so I have to pack a lot of things for both of us. Over-prepare! And then relax, knowing there are stores in the area (even a tack store at the show!) where I can buy anything I forgot. Pack/prepare things ahead of time so you are not rushing about last minute realizing you don’t have clean breeches.Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.12.29 PM

PRACTICE but don’t over-train. A tired horse does not perform well. Horses, like us, need time to rest and recover. Now is not the time to introduce new things or build a lot more strength. Now is the time to finesse things we already know and work on precision in the test.

MEMORIZE the tests super, super well. I can go blank in the middle of a test (focusing so hard on my horse and all the things I’m doing in the moment), so I usually use a reader. At the Championships, no readers allowed. So I am memorizing the heck out of the tests.

VISUALIZE the tests going well. Ride them in your head, imagining things going well, but knowing you have the skills to deal with mistakes that happen and still carry on.

HAVE A SUPPORT TEAM, both during your prep time leading up to the show, and at the show. Someone who says, “you can do this!” when you think you can’t.

RELAX, it’s just a horse show! And maybe we need a little dressage show attitude. Check this out and see if you have dressage skillz:Β

15 thoughts on “Strategies for horse show nerves

    • Maybe next year, you never know! It has been my dream for a long, long time. We aren’t likely to do very well (I still don’t ride him forward as much as I should), but I think it will be good experience for me so I’m making myself do it. Scary, but exciting and (I hope) fun, too.

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  1. Let’s hear about your support team . Hoping there is at least a small one??, to hold your coat, your horse, and your wine glass at the end!!
    It really helps to calm things down.
    If up for a much smaller crazy event, trailer up out to my quiet peaceful barn in Lincoln on Sunday night for a solo ride in the indoor, where EVERYTHING will go perfect and the world is right again; )
    You can get more details later…


    • Wow, a ride where everything will go right…you’re sending me into a reverie. That’s how it goes in my dreams. And then there is the reality. That’s why the video so amused me (him on his pony in that outfit, so ridiculous, and sometimes I feel the same way, posturing in my dressage get up). I have the BEST support person in my husband. Used to have someone else but she has gotten older and kind of unreliable (between you and me), so my husband stepped in. Also the Regionals are an overnight show and far away, so it’s a lot to ask of someone. I am contemplating an article on “how to be a good horse show helper.” What do you think? Because most of us occasionally help our friends, too, and some people just do NOT think about what would truly be helpful (like not criticizing the ride right after you get out of the ring, thank you very much!).

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      • That’s why I love that video! ! It’s a ridiculously serious sport…

        Love it that your husband comes along. Mine occasionally takes pictures, as a celebrity stint for under two hours, that’s it. I think he’d be hugely uncomfortable just even holding a horse πŸ˜‰

        Great idea with the article! !! If extra ambitious you could make it a two part. First your tips, welcoming anyone to add some, then a follow up with any additional tips. I know I’d read it right away!!

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  2. Yay! Good luck, and have fun and enjoy your awesome Super Pony. No matter what happens it will be a step towards growth and experience for you both. Rooting for you guys from WI!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tonia! My sister lives in WI (Middleton). It’s nice to know I have a “horse sister” there, too πŸ™‚ I’m excited and trying to keep the right attitude about it. The Pony feels more and more ready (most days), and he LOOKS fabulous. Had to clip him early as he started a winter coat (ponies!), so he’s sleek and black right now. There will be many pictures for the blog :-). There are only about 4 ponies on the list of about 300 horses at this show, so it will be fun to be there representing what ponies can do!

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      • Hahaha, it is still in the high 70’s and low 80’s here during the day but we have had a couple nights that got down to 40 degrees and BAM! Clay sprouted a winter coat. 😐

        You guys are going to rock it–can’t wait to see pictures and hear about your experience!

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    • O.k., I will definitely be there before noon. My plan at this point is to leave early in the morning to beat the traffic and the heat, so I should be there by 9 or 10 a.m. (depending on just how early I leave). I’ll watch some dressage and have lunch at the show, so I will be EXCITED to meet you πŸ™‚ It’s going to be so exciting to see all these fancy horses…Definitely have to take lots of pictures!


      • It’s going to be fun!!!
        Tip, you’ll find it’s quite a drive to buy food anywhere there. Concessions have cooked food to purchase, soda, hamburgers etc. Just a tip to bring a cooler with extras πŸ˜‰
        We’ll have to make sure you get a little pic of Finn next to Ebeling’s horses – how cool! I’d be all bent out of shape just being there myself, I think it’s so awesome that you’ve pulled it off!
        Jotted down your cell number already, if you’d like to erase it from the comment above – just in case. I’ll text you!


  3. Here is something for you. I notice the more experienced riders, as they come into the arena purposely bring their horse past me and say hi (the photographer). The nerves are bad enough without being distracted by me, even though I am a long way off. Also the horse feels more at ease for some reason. I ‘m out in the open, as opposed to the judges in their scary boxes. Or so they tell me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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