18 May Competition/Event Day Advice
How to make sure the lead up to, and the day of your competition go as smoothly as possible
You’ve trained hard day in, day out, perfecting your centre lines, making sure not to knock those poles, shining your boots until they’re clean enough to eat your dinner off (But don’t, they’re too clean!)
It doesn’t matter whether it is your first, 10th, or 500th show, it doesn’t matter what level you’re riding at or what location you are heading to – days out with your furry best friend are equally as important to us all, and the pressures remain the same!
Regardless of what level your nerves may be at even just thinking about going in to the ring with your horse, we’ve all put hours, days, months and years of training in, sacrificing time, money and often our dignity (!) so you want this event to be fun. Often with our equine partners, things inevitably don’t always go to plan, but there are ways to prepare to make the whole thing more enjoyable.
Don’t Make Too Many Changes
You’ve taken the decision to enter whatever it is you’re going to, meaning that somewhere inside you, despite the nerves and panic, you feel you are ready to take on this challenge. You’ve clearly worked hard over the last few months or years, to get to this point, so it’s important to know that what you have done thus far has worked. You’ve made it to a new milestone, so don’t panic and change your current routines or you may do more harm than good. Work on perfecting exactly what you’ll need to showcase at your event, remember all you’ve done to get to this point, and stick with it. Making drastic changes over a short space of time can be detrimental and lead to behaviours that you’re not yet equipped to deal with. This show will highlight many things for you, so focus on completing it, and if necessary, you can make a new plan afterwards based on any feedback you have gotten.
Remember Who the Real Competition Is
It’s natural to wonder if we will be good enough, or as good as others we will be competing against. Whilst a level of competitiveness is healthy, sometimes it is exactly the opposite. In the end, the competition really is only with yourself.. in a competition environment, all sorts of things can happen that are out of the ordinary from your regular training and scenery, and this affects both riders and horses in different ways, so it’s important to focus on yourself and dealing with your very own situation. If your mind wanders to what everybody else is doing you may not be in the right frame of mind to make the best of your own, and your horses’ performance. If you have tried your best, and you can say the same for your equine partner, it doesn’t really matter what the score comes out at or who came above/below you. It is also really important to remember that there are many more events like this to come, so you will always have the chance to try and try again. This also means that you can always aim to beat yourself… try and focus on improving your own performance each time and concentrate less on everyone else in your classes.
Make sure you have everything you need to ride and compete effectively. Does your saddle fit well? Do your boots feel comfortable? The little things like boots that cause you a blister, a piece of tack that causes pain for your horse or discomfort for you, or anything similar could put you off your stride in a competition environment. Give yourself a better chance by ensuring everything is comfortable for both you and your horse. It is also vital to ensure that when packing to go to a show, everything is packed well and is easy to get to. Regardless of how much time you have, the competition environment is bound to make you feel flustered, so searching for things in a panic won’t do you any good. Help yourself to be in the best mindset possible and make sure everything is in order! Pack the day before if you can to ensure you don’t have too much to do on the day.
If you have to plait or turn out your horse for an event, it is always good to make sure you have everything you need long before you need it. Whether it’s plaiting bands or shampoo, be sure you have all that you require otherwise you may panic the night before or on the day, and it will put you in the wrong frame of mind. If it’s not too dirty, leave the mane clean if you have to plait – a bit of grease helps them to stay in place and stops your fingers sliding. Don’t use a mane and tail spray, it will make the hair too silky and you won’t be able to hold on to it well enough to create perfect plaits. A plaiting spray or hairspray are great tools to help get a fab finish. There are things that can help you prepare the previous day to limit what you have to do the morning of, such as hoods to keep plaits in and the neck clean, boots to keep pre-washed legs clean and bandages too.
It can be physically and mentally challenging to plan for and attend an event, especially if it is your first or if you suffer from anxiety. But for all of us, help is always much appreciated with our fur babies so make sure to plan the attendance of a friend, partner or family member if you can. Even if this person is not particularly interested in or experienced with horses, having someone to speak with on your journey can really alleviate pre-competition stress and make it more enjoyable for you. Knowing you have someone there for you during the event may also really reduce any negative feeling or nerves, as whatever happens, they can support you and make sure you get home safely.