Dealing with Competition Nerves - blog by Autumn Palmer

It is no secret that whatever level, whatever discipline we all get nervous. Personally, I always felt most nervous before xc, the putting all my safety gear on like I was going into combat! First my back brace, then my back protector, then the air jack & hat, medical arms bands with every item my nerves got worse. Then over to the warm up where my horse would do one of two things, lull me into a false sense of security and be an absolute angel, jump foot perfectly without so much as a single tug on his bit. Or hurl me around the warm up and at make sure I was good a terrified before we set off. Then the start box, oh well this was a delight for my nerves it is amazing how long 10 second can feel when sitting on half tonne spring with a mind of its own. And as soon as we set off, the nerve vanished, they became adrenaline and without adrenaline we wouldn’t have the drive to succeed.

 

We need a combination of nerves and adrenaline but it is how we manage these on the day that can make or break us, so as someone who has always struggled with nerves I thought I would share them with you.


  1. Eat something in the morning! Most of us are up at silly o’clock on show day, I never used to eat breakfast as I felt sick from walking the course the day before to getting off after the xc! I found that eating something in the morning might not help with actual nerves but it gives you essential energy needed for the day.

  1. Don’t fixate! If there is one thing that I would say was my downfall, at events that didn’t go to plan (I say mine because it was in my head not the horses) it was that I would fixate on something on the course, or in the test. I would think over and over about what if it went wrong that most of the time because I had over thought it, it did go wrong. From movements to run outs, the more you fixate on something the more likely you are to make a mistake.
  1. Get There With Lots Of Time. This a no brainer really, the more time you have the less you will rush around and panic, take your time. This goes from getting ready in the morning, if you rush getting your horse ready they pick up which will inevitably mean you are then both tense. Check out where you need to be, tack up in plenty of time and make sure you are where you need to be a few minutes before you need to be there.

  1. Mind Over Matter. This one is the most important but also takes the longest to gets to grips with. In short it just means you find away you almost talk down your nerves and tell yourselves there is nothing to be nervous about. Sounds so silly but it really does work, if I felt nervous before entering a ring I would take a deep breath and tell myself no one was watching, its just me and my horse doing something we enjoy and to have a good time. Now don’t get me wrong this doesn’t always work but if you can train your brain to dampen that nervous feeling it is a really helpful tool in the long run. It also means you can focus on the task at hand without nerves clouding the way.

Happy Competing All! x

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