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These are unusual times, as we’re constantly being told! After being allowed back to equestrian centres and out to competitions, things are almost back to normal, but not quite. If you’re used to having friends groom for you, transport you and be your cheerleaders, you’ll know that things have changed. In most cases, we’re only allowed one other person to accompany us, sometimes just ourselves.

How then can we manage everything if we compete or go out alone? There are practical things we can do to feel better and mindset know-how to keep us calmer and more focused.

Before the day

  1. Make a list of equipment you’ll need well in advance. Think of having spares, such as boots or head-collars, just in case.
  2. Plan how to load the car or lorry: if you’re eventing or doing combined training, pack in reverse order – things you need last at the back – including horses in reverse order!
  3. Think about where you’ll put things you need on your return to your vehicle after your class – sponges, water, rugs etc.
  4. Take your own food and drink. Cafes may not be open and even if they are, you may not want to leave your horse.
  5. Write out your name and mobile number and place it on your dashboard in case your horse needs attention.
  6. Visualisation – this is very useful, but can be fortified using sights, sounds, feelings, touches and more – see
  7. Learn a Pattern Interrupt technique and have it ready to use on the day: Patten Interrupt is a distraction or a means of stopping negative thoughts in their tracks. Pattern Interupts include telling yourself, firmly, “STOP!” when the nerves begin. You may sing in you head, count backwards from 100, count footfalls, whatever takes your mind away from any anxiety. Have a look at this blog for more ideas
  8. When you go to the show, wear your competition clothes and put over-clothes on top.
  9. Give yourself plenty of time!
  10. If you can, familiarise yourself with new venues, before the competition. If possible, walk the XC course, get a feel for the arenas. Watch a show the week beforehand.
  11. Practise taking off your coat and exercise sheet at home, so your horse isn’t bothered by it.

At the venue

  1. When you arrive, make a mental note of where you’ve parked; if applicable go to the show secretary and let them know you’ve arrived and are on your own.
  2. Remember to put your name and phone number on your dashboard.
  3. Tell any judges or collecting ring stewards etc, that you’re on your own, they can hold your whip during your dressage test and tell you where to put any exercise sheets or coats etc.
  4. When you get there, say hello to the people next door – let them know you’re on your own, they may look out for you or give you a hand.
  5. Smile!!

Mindset matters

  1. You can only control the controllables. See above!
  2. Go your own way, ignore other riders! Focus on you and your horse. Block out others.
  3. Focus on what you want to have happen. The mind often uses the images we have in our heads to replicate what we’re seeing! If you see a successful day, that’s what it will aim for! Remember: anxiety is a warning from the unconscious mind that you’re not focusing on what you want to have happen.
  4. Know your triggers for any anxiety and use Pattern Interrupt and any distractions you’ve pre-planned.
  5. Breathe! Try breathing in for 4 walking footfalls, then out for 4 walking footfalls, then alter the number to 5 or 6, keep focusing on footfalls and breathing.
  6. There is an adage that says, there is no failure, only feedback. You cannot fail, you can only learn!

Lastly, remind yourself of why you compete and remember to smile and enjoy! You’re doing far better going out than others who only talk about it!

Dr Tracey Cole is one of the UK's leading mindset experts helping, supporting and training equestrians. To find out more about her work, please visit her website or check out her other articles here on the Horsemart Blog >

If you're new to travelling alone, why not check out our article 'Going It Alone - Tips On Solo Outings & Travelling With Your Horse'

Dr Tracey Cole
Horsemart Content Contributor
Published on 20-10-2020
Dr Tracey Cole is one of the UK’s leading mindset experts helping, supporting and training equestrians. She is passionate about working with riders to improve their mindset and mental strength and thus, enhance their performance and enjoyment. Tracey trains equestrians of all levels, as well as riding coaches, to become Empowered Equestrian™ Coaches. This is the world’s only accredited 4 certification training specifically designed for equestrians. Riders are trained in NLP (neurolinguistic programming), Time Line Therapy®, NLP Coaching and Hypnosis. She is also a keen equestrian, being the proud owner of Lottie, a chestnut warmblood.