Kaila Sclabassi is a young rider who has had the experience to compete throughout the country with her horses. Her family has made a business of importing young horses, helping them gain show experience, and then selling them on the A-circuit. Despite being 17, Kaila has had to bridge the gap between having horses as her passion, hobby, and business. Over the years, Kaila has found an assortment of ways to stay calm, quell her nerves, and find success in the show ring.

Kaila’s Tips

Keep Calm and Breathe

Above all, try to remain calm. Don’t allow yourself to think too much about it or your nerves will get to you. Take deep breaths and remember you have practiced or learned all of the questions that the course or test will be asking you to perform. Before going in the ring, I say my course over again and remember how many strides are in between each jump. I also tell myself that it’s just a lesson, so I can take some of the pressure off so I can perform better. Taking deep breaths and staying calm is something that I do every time I ride. I also try to not stress about it too much and know that I will make some mistakes and tell myself that I can’t let my mistakes stay in my head while on course. If I focus on them too much then I tend to make more mistakes.

What Causes Nerves?

I think for some riders their nerves and the pressure can get to them. I also think that many riders have a perfectionist mindset and an exact plan of how the course will go. When they end up making small mistakes it can be hard to cope with or stay focused. This can also make them feel less confident and more nervous competing. At finals or other major competitions, nerves can also be a huge factor and change how you would normally ride. I believe there is a lot of pressure and assumptions about a standard that I need to do well when competing in order to be respected and looked up to as a talented rider. For me, sometimes my nerves get to me. If I tell myself this is a big class I need to do well, I will make more mistakes than usual. I try to think of every class as just another lesson and ride the test or course like I would in my lesson. I also know that whatever is on that course or test is going be something that I have done in my lessons.

Avoiding “Oops” Moments On Course

Normally, I take pics of the courses I’m riding, especially if I have more than one course to remember. I also write down anything I think is important in my notes, things such as strides in between jumps, certain colors of fences, words or objects that stick out to be on the jumps. I use this to create my own picture in my head of the course. I also will talk to myself and say the course out loud or when I’m warming up. Even once I think I know my course, I continually go over it in my head as I’m riding. I try to break my thoughts down step by step. When my thoughts are in small chunks and in order I tend to ride better and have less to think about while I’m riding. It allows me to process what I’m doing currently and then move on to next step when I’m ready, slowly it all comes together as a whole.