Horse Show Nerves

Horse Show

If you’ve shown before, you’re probably familiar with the tension and stomach knots that come along with performance-related nerves. It could be the people watching you, or just knowing you need to do your best after the hours of preparation and money you’ve spent getting your horse to the show.

Here are some techniques you can use to help calm your show nerves:

  • Get organized: Cleaning your tack, braiding your horse and packing the trailer the night before can mean a lot less loose ends to take care of in the morning. The more time you have to focus on your class or pattern, the more prepared you will feel, which helps decrease nerves.
  • Get the lay of the land: If you’re showing at a venue that’s new to you, take a dry run to the facilities. Show up without your horse if you live nearby, and check out where the show office is, which rings you’ll be riding in, and where your horse will be stabled. If you can’t do that, take your horse for a nice walk after you arrive and check out the venue.
  • Visualize your performance: Whether it’s a jumping course, dressage test or showmanship pattern, imagine each step going perfectly. You can do this as many times as you want to without wearing out your horse!
  • Take some quiet time and breathe: It’s easy to get caught up in frantic preparations, so carve out a couple of minutes to sit down, take a deep breath and relax.
  • Embrace the butterflies: A small case of nerves can actually help sharpen your focus and get you pumped up to go out and give it your all.
  • Extra practice: If you show infrequently, you’re likely to be more nervous. Try going to schooling shows or play days more often just to get your routine down and get used to performing in front of others.

Further Reading

Show Where You’ll Shine

Fixing the Fear Factor

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Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.


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