Noble Life

Beating Pre-Show Jitters

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I started showing cutting horses when I was ten years old. And I vividly remember being so nervous at my first “big” show that I got sick out in the warm-up pen. Talk about embarrassing! After that, I never ate a thing before I rode in the herd. As I continued competing throughout high school and even college, my competition jitters followed right along. Fortunately, as I got older I was able to control them better.

Here are some of the techniques I used and that I know have worked for others:

  • Deep cleansing breaths – In through the nose, out through the mouth. Short, shallow breaths don’t allow our brain to get enough oxygen. In order to reduce your anxiety before a show, try taking long, deep breaths to stay focused!
  • Visualization & positive self-talk– Visualizing your future performance is a very powerful practice. That means if we visualize everything going smoothly, along with giving ourselves a positive pep-talk, we are far more likely to succeed. Help your brain get accustomed to the idea of kicking butt in the show pen and you will.
  • Proper nutrition – This is one of those things that can be tricky when you are traveling. And to be honest, eating well was not always one of my strong suits. But I have since come to realize, eating lots of protein and veggies keeps my mood and energy levels even. Grab some apples & nuts instead of that cheeseburger—you’ll thank yourself later!

A note about alcohol: Some people swear by drinking a beer or a glass of wine before competing. While I’m sure the alcohol does have a relaxing effect, it also kills alertness and could make silly mistakes on your part far more likely. My advice would be to stay away until after you’re done.

  • Plenty of rest – Another challenge, especially if you’re traveling away from home. I remember getting up regularly at 4:00 am to drive to horse shows. Do your best to get a good night’s sleep and refrain from staying out all night before you compete. It’s a lot of fun to go out to dinner and enjoy our horse show friends, but remember, you paid a lot of money to be there and have worked really hard to prepare. Don’t blow your chances by choosing to be less-than-responsible the night before.

Best of luck to you on your competitive horse journey. If you have more proven tips to quell the horse show jitters, leave a comment below!

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The Author:


Alyssa Barnes is a freelance copywriter and online marketer committed to helping people live a little more western. She is a peculiar combination of polished marketing professional and dirt-covered cowgirl in muddy boots. As the typical offspring of a performance horse trainer, she is well versed in colt starting, cutting, reined cow horse and rodeo. You can see more of Alyssa’s writing at www.earnyourspurs.com or visit her business website, www.cowgirlcopywriter.com.

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