4 Tips for Calming Competition Nerves

4 Tips for Calming Competition Nerves

By Chloe Gee

Horse riding is a stressful sport, we work so hard all week, and all we want is to go well at our event on the weekend. But because we all want our hard work to pay off so badly, we start to worry that it won’t. And then nerves come in like SURPRISE and then we all start to fall apart a little bit.

Nerves are a good thing, I was always told that I should never ride in a competition unless I was a bit nervous. However, sometimes nerves get to us and we don’t ride as well as we’d like. We can’t stop nerves, but we can learn to tame the wild beasts so that we have every chance of riding to the best of our ability on the day!

So here are a few tips from me, as a young rider, that I use to calm nerves.

1. Imagery

This tip is probably the one I use the most!

One way to calm your nerves is to sit in a reasonably quiet place, close your eyes and imagine every little detail of your cross country course, dressage test, or whatever it is you’re about to conquer. Think about the different parts to the course or test, and plan out exactly how you’re going to ride it.

Think about what could go wrong and what you can do in that situation- of course we don’t want to dwell on what could go wrong, but often it eases our minds to know that we have a plan if something does happen that wasn’t in Plan A.

The reason behind using this kind of imagery, is that it distracts your mind from the focus of being nervous about something, and points it towards something else, but that something is actually your ride plan. So hitting two birds with one stone 😉

2. talk over your ride plan

Another way to distract yourself from your nerves (but not the task at hand) is to talk to someone about your course or test.

Make sure that you find a friend that will listen and talk over their plan too, and not try to change your mind about your plan because mate, you’ve made your plan, now you gotta stick to it! Talking about all the little aspects, and it helps just like the tip above but verbalised.

3. listen to some good music

Total music geek here- I am a sucker for some good music! 

Make yourself up a good playlist in advance of an event, make sure it’s got some awesome sing-a-longs on it and at some point before you get on, maybe while you’re tacking up, listen to it to take your mind off being nervous. The only part to this that I don’t like is that you get completely distracted from what you should be focusing on. I would rather one of the two above tips personally, but different things work for different people, so if listening to music works for you, then I say go for it!

4. chewing gum

Did you know that it is proven that eating calms nerves? I know most people can’t eat before a nerve-wracking competition. So get your pack of chewies out and start chewin’.

The whole process of chewing will actually calm your nerves, I’ve done this myself and it actually works! There’s no secret to it, it’s as simple as that!

Remember, nerves are normal!

It’s normal to be nervous, and it can even be a good thing. Calming your nerves will make you a more effective rider, so the more you practice doing it, the better you’ll get and you’ll find that you just automatically start using whatever method you decide to use to calm your nerves before you ride!


I hope that this has given you a bit of help, or maybe even something new to try.


I also want to hear from you guys, what do you do to calm your nerves? Leave me a comment below, or send me a message on Facebook @Chloe Gee Equestrian. 

Ally Doumany
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