1. Breathe. It’s surprising how tight and worried you can become, and before you know it, a substantial length of time has gone by since your last breath! Our brains need oxygen in order to perform well and breathing helps to loosen those tight muscles and make you more relaxed. So keep it in the front of your mind - breathe. It sounds easy, but 'in the moment' it's easily forgotten.
2. Routine. Many top level riders have a very strict routine before a competition to help keep them focused and 'on top' of the situation. It might help you to have a checklist of equipment you need to take so you don't forget anything. There is nothing more stressful than getting to a competition and finding out you've forgotten your girth (yup, been there, done that!). It can also be helpful to know how long your horse needs to warm up properly. Sticking to a timetable helps keep those pesky butterflies under wraps! Some riders like to listen to the same music to help create that optimal mindset. You need to find what works for you to help keep you calm and focused, then stick to it!
3. Stay in the now. Everyone always starts to think, ‘What if?’ For example, what if I'm late? What if I look silly? What if I get eliminated? Even ones such as, 'What would I do if I actually won?' doesn't help you prepare for the competition. You must keep yourself grounded and ride in the moment. Your focus needs to be on what's happening now instead of what 'might' happen in 20 minutes time! Don't over think it.
4. Banish negativity. We're all guilty of thinking that we aren't good enough, we probably won't win etc. Don't be negative before you've even sat on! Turn that negativity into positive thoughts! You can do it, you will do it and you'll show everyone just how good you are! It's surprising how this little self-esteem boost alters your mindset and therefore your performance. You'll sit much taller in the saddle when you think positively!
5. Remember to enjoy it. Competing is supposed to be fun and can be great to further your riding as you can, quite often, get great feedback from judges. Enjoy it, learn from it and remember the judge isn't scary, they want you to do well too! (If you don't believe me read our blog 'Is your biggest fear the Judge?' HERE).
Now, don't get me wrong, some nerves can be a good thing but it's important they do not take over and paralyse your abilities. Stay positive, stay in the moment and remember to smile. It is suppose to be fun after all!
Sam from Lofthouse Equestrian x