De-stress Yourself for a Calm Horse

Your horse instantly picks up on your attitude and his behavior probably reflects it. Here are seven ways you can de-stress before and during a competition.

1. Plan ahead
Arrive at the show grounds early so your horse can explore the new surroundings and you don’t feel rushed. Pack your trailer and tack trunk neatly — being organized will help you stay relaxed. Lastly, think through what your show day routine will be. Are you going to put your show clothes on first thing in the morning, or change before warm up?

2. Think Positively
Focus on the results you want, not the ones you don’t. If you worry about your horse spooking at the judge’s booth or forgetting your reining pattern, it’s much more likely to happen. If you tell yourself horse shows are scary and stressful, they will be. In the weeks before your show, create positive mantras that you can recite to yourself when the nerves kick in. “I am a quiet, confident rider and my horse is supple and focused.”

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3. Take a Break
Being on your feet since the wee hours of the morning will have you feeling fatigued when it comes time to ride. Along with healthy snacks and drinks to stay hydrated, pack a chair so you can sit down and relax. We love the Director’s Chairs for long days at the horse show or lounging at the barn, complete with your custom barn colors and barn name!

4. Lend a Hand
Helping a friend get her horse ready might be just enough distraction to keep you from stressing about your upcoming class (and the good karma can’t hurt, either).

5. Breathe
If you’re not breathing, your horse feels tension in your seat, legs and hands, and will become tense too. When you’re nervous, it’s easy to forget to breathe, so try singing to yourself. It may feel silly, but it helps.

6. Bring a Helper
Going to a horse show alone is doable, but not always easy (or fun). We highly recommend having someone along to hold your horse, get you a drink or run to the trailer when you realize you need spurs…

7. Laugh!
Laughing forces you to breathe and helps relax tense muscles. Plus, it’s a good reminder of why you’re at the horse show to begin with — it’s supposed to be fun!

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13 comments on “De-stress Yourself for a Calm Horse
  1. Joyce says:

    I found this article to be helpful. After having finished our season (I am only just beginning showing), I know I would have benefited from having read this before the season had started instead of reading it now. At least I can use it and practice these tips before the next season. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Ashleigh says:

    Great tips here!!! I will definatly keep them in mind at my next show!!

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Fantastic Ashleigh, please feel free to pass the article along to any of your equestrian friends!

  3. Natalie says:

    I love the tip from Meghan at Smartpak, I noticed that pretending I was just riding definitely helped me to relax and just enjoy the ride. I think this article in general will help me through my first summer of showing!

  4. Stasia says:

    My pre-ride motto is “Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst.”

  5. tami says:

    When I am trail riding and I ride alone – if I start to get nervous about a situation, I talk to the horse very calmly as if it were a friend. If anyone ever heard me, they might think I am nutty….I think my horse enjoys listening to a calming voice and it helps me to relax. We always have relaxing, wonderful trail rides. Me and my best friend

  6. Zanna Russell says:

    All of these tips work for dog shows, too. Everything you are feeling runs right down that leash to the dog. If you are full of stress while grooming before your class, your poor dog will be a basket case by ring-time. If you have fun, your dog will have fun, too.

  7. Urchinjack says:

    I totally agree with everything. I get super nervous before each class. It makes it really hard to line up at the gate when you horse is prancing around. If your relatively alone mumble an uplifting song to yourself and if you have people around you talk, joke, don’t just sit in a tight ball of worry. The last thing though is don’t get be crushed if you didn’t do something right because you can still do really well. No giving up!

  8. Hannah says:

    Very useful tips for next years rated shows.

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Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

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