You have a big event looming and in the build up you start to feel those nerves creeping in: You feel sick and worried and despite putting in the hours preparing you and your horse for your competition you suddenly feel unable to cope with the pending day.
Sound familiar? Rider nerves affect the majority of us at some point in our lives, however how do the top riders cope with competing at international level?
Courtesy of Childéric Saddles, we caught up with top event rider Gemma Tattersall for her top tips on beating nerves:
Ask yourself the question
Ask yourself what you are nervous about and why in order to address it. If you are nervous because you don’t feel ready to be competing at that level, then don’t! Just because everyone else at the yard thinks you should be competing higher, it doesn’t mean you have to! It is better to get your confidence at a lower level then gradually build up than have all your confidence wiped out in one disaster outing.
Try to improve on you and your horse’s performance but be realistic and don’t push yourself or your horse, beyond your capabilities. You do need to do your homework and of course concentrate on the weaker areas, but don’t forget to make a mental note also of all the good things!
Making sure that you have a clear plan for your warm up can also help focus the mind. Concentrate on riding and warming up to the best of your ability rather than worrying about the actual competition.
Ditch the nerves
If you have had a bad fall, then go back to basics and build up slowly. If your horse was naughty at say a ditch and you fell off, then ask your instructor to school your horse over ditches in order to regain confidence and be armed with the tools to help you tackle this situation should he or she try to put a stop in again.
Preparing for an event in terms of practical, will also give you one less thing to worry about. For example making sure all of your riding stuff is ready and clean so you don’t have a last minute panic is not only sensible but can also be quite therapeutic and empowering, because you are doing something positive and taking positive action to ensure things run smoothly on the day.
Finally if nerves are really affecting your riding and competing then maybe consider getting some help. Working with a sports physiologist or life coach could help you re-focus and dispel nerves.
Even at the top, riders can have confidence crisis’s so don’t feel like you are alone”
Photos Courtesy of David Miller
THE EXPERTS ADVICE:
Anna Morris is an experienced and qualified life coach with First Focus Consultants, specialising in rider confidence issues. Anna is a former event rider herself and has this advice for readers:
Set realistic goals – Take things in steps. Ambition is great, but being overambitious and often failing is difficult to cope with. As with a horse, you don’t want to be over faced, but need to feel like you’ve achieved something. So maybe if you’ve never done a marathon but want to do one, start off with a half marathon and see how that goes first.
Think positively! – Professional riders use sports psychologists who work with them to get them into the right positive frame of mind. Self Confidence is very strongly linked to thinking positively and practice at home
Keep a positivity diary, where you write down the positive things that have happened to you every day.
Jump with your mind
As with everything in life, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Visualise yourself doing a course or a dressage test, taking time before you go in to really think about how you and your horse will respond to the different pressures and situations. Prepare in your mind how to cope with your nerves by breathing and staying focused on your body, as well as the job in hand.
Finally, why not have some coaching on confidence and assertiveness from the coaches at First Focus Consultants to help give you tips and strategies on how to become more confident and positive. It really works!