5 Ways to be Less Stressed at Horse Shows

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

BY TPH STAFF

Most of us ride and show as our hobby, which means we should be enjoying the shows… right? Unfortunately, horse showing can be a stressful experience for many riders. From nerves to super long days, the experience can sometimes feel less joyful than we’d like. If you can relate, check out these tips to make your overall showing experience more enjoyable. The key to reducing stress at horse shows is to be well-prepared, stay focused, and take care of yourself and your horse throughout.

1. Take Your Time to Pack and Be Prepared

Showing takes a lot of equipment for both you and your horse. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Before you start packing, make a list of everything you will need for the show. Write down items such as tack, clothing, snacks, drinks, and anything else you might need. Start packing at least a day or two in advance, so you have plenty of time to double-check your list and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Before leaving for the event, double-check your tack and make sure everything is in good working condition. This includes checking for any damage or wear and tear. Plus, shows often have leather cleaning or repair services available—so it’s a good time to bring anything you’ve been meaning to get fixed. Take the time to organize your tack and clothing by schooling, divisions, and/or special classes. This will help you find everything quickly and easily when you arrive at the show.

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

2. Visualize Success

Meditation may not be part of your normal horse show routine, but the benefits can be huge to reduce stress. When you take the time to clear your mind and imagine yourself succeeding, your mind is calmer to negative energy and self-criticism. Practicing this meditation regularly can help you develop a positive mindset, build confidence, and visualize success as a competitor at a horse show. It can also help you stay focused and calm during the competition, which can improve your performance and overall experience.

Take a few deep breaths and focus on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. This will help you calm your mind and relax your body. Visualize yourself at the show, walking your horse to the warm-up arena, and preparing for your round. Imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of the competition. Visualize yourself performing at your best, riding your horse with confidence and ease. See yourself succeeding in the competition, achieving your goals, and receiving recognition for your hard work. Imagine the feeling of satisfaction and pride that comes with accomplishing your goals.

Repeat positive affirmations to yourself, such as “I am a skilled and confident rider” or “I am fully prepared to compete and succeed.” This will help you reinforce positive thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your abilities. End your meditation by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to compete and for your horse’s companionship and support. Take a few deep breaths, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

3. Fuel Your Body

Proper nutrition is essential for fueling your body for a horse show. It’s important to eat foods that provide sustained energy and are easy to digest. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and fried foods, which can cause a drop in energy levels and increase inflammation. It’s also essential to eat at regular intervals to maintain blood sugar levels and avoid hunger pangs. Make sure to pack your snacks and meals in an insulated cooler to keep them fresh throughout the day.

Foods like pasta, rice, and bread are great for providing sustained energy throughout the day. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your body, so be sure to include them in your meals. Protein is important for repairing and building muscle tissue, which is essential for riders who need to maintain balance and control. Snacks like fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help your body function properly. They also provide carbohydrates for energy and fiber to aid in digestion.

Beyond food, water and hydration is the most important way to fuel your body for success—both mentally and physically. Staying hydrated is essential for riders during horse shows, as it can help maintain energy levels, prevent muscle cramps, and regulate body temperature. Riders should drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day, and more if it’s hot and humid outside. Electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade can help replace lost minerals during hot and humid weather. Eating water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables can also help maintain hydration levels. Examples of water-rich foods include watermelon, grapes, oranges, cucumber, and tomatoes.

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

4. Use Your Support System

Having a strong support system can be incredibly helpful for riders to have fun and feel more relaxed during a horse show. Friends and family members can provide much-needed encouragement and support before, during, and after a competition. Riders can share their goals, challenges, and successes with their loved ones and receive positive feedback, which can help boost their confidence and reduce stress.

Connecting with other riders at the competition can be a great way to make new friends and share experiences. Riders can meet new people, exchange tips and advice, and have fun together. Building that community helps you realize that no matter what happened during the round—we’ve all been there!

You also can’t underestimate the importance of your trainer. Your trainer can provide guidance, feedback, and support to help you prepare for the competition. They can help riders set realistic goals, improve their skills, and develop a strategy for success. Having a coach or trainer can also be a source of motivation and accountability.

5. Remember Why You Show

Even following all of these tips, horse shows are still an intense competition that brings huge ranges of emotion. We’re all going to have bad days. That’s inevitable. But no matter what happened in the ring, remember why you ride and why we all show up in founding fathers outfits to prance around with our ponies. It’s to celebrate our love of the horse and the pursuit of perfection. Keep your personal goals in mind—no the ribbons. At the end of the day, it’s about you going out there to do what you love with your best friend.

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