Whether you’re competing or having a lesson, nerves and your mental game can play a big role in your performance. Maybe you don’t get to lesson or compete very often, you had a stressful day at work, your dog ate something they shouldn’t; there’s a billion reasons why your head might not be in the game. Sometime’s those reasons make for a good excuse, and other times they’re small distractions that keep us from performing our best. Most often people associate nerves with horse shows, but I’ve found they can rear their ugly head before clinics, lessons, or even the moment I hear my trainer adjust the jump cup or call out a movement that is new to me.

When you’re nervous, you typically aren’t able to perform your best. Maybe you’re some superhuman that turns their nerves into the ultimate performance, but personally, I crack under pressure and ride like I’m a fledgling beginner who doesn’t know their diagonal. Over the years my self-control over my nerves has improved, but I still fall victim to these unpleasant butterflies that are the bane of my existence in the ring.

These are my favorite ways to curb my nerves and find my focus and zen:

1. Rock out to your favorite playlist. I personally have a favorite playlist for all potential situations. Nerves, dressage, show jumping, cross country, powering through feeling sad, etc. Music can be a big help to tuning out the stressors around you and help give you that push you need to focus.

2. Snacks. Maybe it’s not the most healthy outlet, but when I’m not too nervous to eat, I like to indulge in my favorite snack foods to help take the edge off. Don’t go too crazy, but it’s amazing what some gummy bears can do for your nerves.

3. Breathing exercises. I’m not as into yoga, fitness, meditation, and mindfulness as I should be, however, there is no denying that practicing steady breathing helps. It might not cure the problem, but it can help you think more clearly and combat the anxiety.

4. Going over the perfect outcome. Repeat the perfect outcome of your situation over and over in your mind. Go over every detail of the best way you want your ride, competition, or lesson to go. If you hit a negative situation, visualize a stop sign, then continue where you left off with your perfect mental ride.

These are just a few of the ways I help myself calm before a ride. What are your favorite ways to reduce your nerves and riding anxiety?

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