Overcoming Nerves!

Overcoming Nerves!

99% of dressage competitors can relate to this...

Suffer from nerves??

There are definitely some horses that "show off" and perform better in a test environment than schooling at home. If you ride one of these horses then I'll bet you don't suffer from nerves, and are probably semi-professional / professional.

If you're one of the other 99% then it's likely and a normal instinctive reaction to get tense, especially over your shoulders and upper core. This tension does two things that starts an unwanted cycle of events.

1. Raises your centre of gravity
2. Makes it harder for you to move at one with your horse.

Clearly, point 2 will result in a less comfortable feeling for the horse and so he’s likely to tighten over the back and hollow. Even if you manage to keep him round in appearance, the contact will become less elastic, the ‘throughness’ will lessen, the hocks will not be able to swing under as far to carry enough weight and then, all of a sudden, you’ve lost self carriage and will be prone to resistance, loss of rhythm, disobediences, and so on.
At this point, you are on the verge of tears and tense up even more and start to use to contact to literally pull his head into some sort of roundness (perhaps fiddling at the bit or pulling it from side to side), he objects and shows resistance (mouth open, ears back, shortening of the strides and further hollowing.
This is why we call it STRESSAGE ;)

WHAT NOT TO DO…
1. Cry / scream
2. Throw a tantrum
3. Be miserable for long periods of time
4. Give up
5. Take it out on everyone around you
6. Get a new horse (quite yet)

Relaxation Tips…
- Be hydrated, having eaten something and not sleep deprived.
- Allow plenty of time before the test, don’t cut it fine timewise as once adrenaline has built up in the body it can take 2 hours to come down, so don’t argue or get tense prior to the test.
- Breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly. Repeat this exercise consciously whenever you feel tension creeping in. Think of trying to calmly and quietly “blow” your horse’s head down and squeezing the toothpaste out the tube with your lower leg, to reaffirm your confidence and control.
- Rotate your shoulders backwards and down, breathing out as they drop down.
- Consciously relax your thigh, bringing your knee marginally off the saddle and drop your heel, ensuring that the weight of your legs is in the stirrups and the weight of your body is in your bum (the seat).
- Imagine you have no muscles (strength) whatsoever in your forearms, only in your triceps, so are unable to try pull the reins down in an attempt to keep him round.
- The arena is your classroom, and you are in control not the judge. He’s just the school boy made to sit and pay attention to you, so use this time to show him what you can do. Be confident and relaxed.
- Use ‘soft eyes’. This means that you don’t focus your eyes firmly on anything you look at, in fact by using soft eyes you concentrate on everything around you including what you feel, hear and see in the peripheral vision as well as what you are looking at.
- If your horse is a tense ‘type’ then feed a daily fed Calming Bespoke and use Liquid Caalm to promote relaxation, immediately prior to warm up before the test.

  • Hack up bespoke team

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