How to stop being nervous when showing your horse

I travelled to this lovely lady the other day to give her a riding lesson. She was so nice. She had been working with her horse at home for quite a few years, she was a lovely rider, had a handy horse and do you know she had never competed at a show? As we were going through the lesson, I asked her why she had not shown as yet, her answer was sad to me, “fear” was her answer. Not fear of getting bucked off or fear of having a crash on the way but fear of looking silly if she mucked up! That was indeed sad to hear especially when her dream was to show one day. The only thing stopping her was fear of mucking up.

It’s not a “given” that if you own a horse you must show it, however, when you want to get out and show but you can’t due to fear of mucking up or letting nerves get the better of you that’s kind of sad. After all, it’s meant to be fun, it’s a hobby and don’t people take up hobbies because they’re fun to do?

Try this checklist

You may not see yourself ever being that bad with nerves or fear but I think I can fairly say, most riders do suffer from some form or other of it.

Riders quite often bring the subject up, they tell their stories of the experiences they have had at shows of being that nervous they couldn’t cope.

I like to tell riders to go through a check list in their heads, this helps take their mind off the butterflies and fear of showing. If they start the checklist in the warm up pen and repeat it in the class, they always come out and say it really helped them take their mind off being nervous.

  1. Begin your checklist at your feet – are your heels down? Are they in line with your hip and shoulder…check ✔️
  2. Moving up to your calf – can you feel the stretch in your calves as you make sure your heels are pointing downward? Are they embracing your horses sides ready to cue for your manoeuvres? Check ✔️
  3. Ask yourself are your knees and thighs gripping like a vice or are they also embracing your horses sides with slight pressure? Check ✔️
  4. Think about your back pockets – I always say if you imagine you have a $100 note rolled up in your back pocket and the only way to ensure it doesn’t fly out is to “sit on your pockets”, (if you go ahead and try it now you will notice that you are tilting your pelvis slightly forward). Hoping that money doesn’t fly out of your back pocket will ensure you have a nice, deep seat – check ✔️
  5. Is your back straight and your shoulders back opening up your chest causing you to hold your body upright making it uncomfortable to lean forward which would cause you to put all of your weight on your horses front end? – check ✔️
  6. Check that you are looking forward in the direction you are going, if you are looking down at your horses head for 1 it won’t fall off his neck I promise and 2 if you are looking down you are not being truthful about point number 5 and below, looking down at your horses head will cause a domino effect, all that came before number 6 will surely collapse. So, this one on your check list is very important. Check number 6 thoroughly. ✔️
  7. Are your arms around a 90 degree bend from your sides? Check ✔️
  8. Hands soft on the rein/reins depending on if you are riding one handed or two. Making sure that your hands are NOT back at your hips with your fists gripping with white knuckles but holding the reins soft and with an “open” appearance? Are your hands “mirrored” with each other a little above and forward from the horn of the saddle? Check ✔️
  9. Last but not least check to see if you’re breathing. 😉 ✔️

“What? I’m sitting here in the lineup already! What just happened? I didn’t feel nervous and it’s over!”

That is a very common comment riders have when they complete the class.

Try these 9 points in the above checklist, see if it works for you. Your horse will thank you for it, horse’s really do pick up on riders that are nervous. It flows on into your horse when you’re nervous.

Go now and enjoy that hobby of yours to the fullest, don’t let nervous tension or fear put a damper on your showing.

I would love to know how you go with this so don’t forget to add your comments below and if you would like to read more about training your horse and how I train mine, enter your email address below and “Let’s Ride”!

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I am a retired professional horse trainer, active Certified rider coach, I coach riders and their horses throughout Australia and New Zealand, I am the author of the book From Go To Whoa - Training Your Own Horse, I am also a Certified Nutritionist and a professional Keto Coach. I am a keen fisher woman and I love the gym where I weight train 4 days a week. I travel Australia full time now with my husband and our Jack Russell Doug, booking and holding clinics and lessons throughout the country for many remote horse riders as well as not so remote. I love coaching riders and their horses along with helping people with nutrition and the ketogenic diet.

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