In this new series, equestrians share their strategies to master the mental aspect of the sport.

Lauren Hayes, daughter of Olympian Jay Hayes, has been competing horses since the young age of 5. With multiple trips to the North American Young Rider Championships under her belt and top rankings throughout North America, Lauren is no stranger to riding under pressure. In 2000, Lauren competed in the Olympic Trials and was a member of the 2002 Nations Cup Team at WEF. In addition to her success in the ring, Lauren has also found her niche coaching numerous young riders at all levels. Visit her website at

Lauren’s Tips

Managing Nerves
I think the unknown is what makes people nervous. Our sport is very different from others, in that we are partnered with another being that has a mind of their own. You cannot let the nerves take over, or control you. Use your nerves to your advantage and make you work harder.

Translating Your Mental Routine To The Ring
Normally I go over my plan and visualize my plan. It’s best to visualize and mentally see yourself around the course. Use different factors such as jump colours, or markers on course. Every competition is important for a different reason, working on different goals and improving. When dealing with medal finals or other higher profile shows, if you have done your homework and are prepared, you should not get overwhelmed that you are competing in a more “important” show.

Sometimes we get too caught up with results and competition that we forget about the relationship we have with our horse. It’s important to enjoy the time with your horse and stay focused on what is happening in the moment. I think many young riders need to realize that when they make mistakes, they have to turn those into lessons and goals to work and focus on. This is a sport that you can enjoy for a long time, which means you are always learning.