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!