The Less Than Ideal Show Environment


By Cathy Penrod

As summer fast approaches and we prepare for our outdoor show season, many thoughts come into play, “Grrr…I hate showing in the heat; this is a new venue and I am not sure how my horse is going to react; I hope I am not in the ring and the train comes by or I have heard horror stories about the footing.”

Environmental factors detract from our performance when we encounter an environment that we believe prevents us from functioning in an optimal manner, or in the manner to which we are accustomed. An example: If the skies suddenly open up and it begins to pour during our ride, we may lose focus, and our energy may become depleted.

Environmental factors are those that are related to the setting and/or conditions in which you will perform. We don’t exist – or ride – in a vacuum. In addition to the people around us, there are tangible physical external elements that affect our energy and performance. Our environment will affect our stress level, as well as how willing and enthusiastic we are to perform.

Though environmental factors aren’t always under our control (we can’t stop the rain from falling), we can learn to control the effect they have on us. Environmental factors can include:

  • Conditions
  • Setting/surroundings
  • Equipment and clothing

Each of us responds to environmental influences differently, so it’s important to be self-aware about what factors in the environment influence us in a positive or negative way, and to take steps to ensure that the surroundings either support what we’re attempting to do, or that we have the coping skills to deal with less-than-optimal conditions.

How can we deal with an environment that is less ideal for us?

  • Remain a victim to the environment. A non-effective response.
  • Leave the environment. This could mean packing it in and going home. Depending on the circumstances, that might be a good choice.
  • Accept it. Say, “so what,” and continue to compete. This is not so much a resignation as it is a statement in which you declare “It just doesn’t matter; not worth my concern.” After that, accepting it is no longer fighting it.
  • Change the environment. If able, we can move to a different location, or make a change (maybe put on rain gear) so that we are not as concerned about the rain.
  • Change your perspective of the environment. This is the most powerful choice. Instead of letting the conditions be the affect, choose the response you’d like. We may PREFER a different environment, but we can choose how to respond and create a different outlook in less-than-optimal conditions.

Some things to consider, how do you school/practice environmental factors that you know may cause stress? Do you ride in the rain? Do you put your hunt coat on in 90+degree weather to become more accustomed? Think about the competitive advantage this can create.

Wishing all a successful show season. Happy riding!

Cathy Penrod is a certified professional Performance Specialist with 34 years of knowledge of the equestrian world and has more than 19 years of leadership, mentoring and coaching experience. Cathy specializes in helping riders break through internal barriers, conquer nerves, and take their performance to the next level using customized programs such as The Spur Factor Process and COR.E Performance Dynamics.

Find out more about Cathy and EquiCoach at: or

This article was originally published in the May 2015 print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine.