Welcome to the dressage spot, a place for the young (or young at heart) dressage riders wanting to gain information on the sport of dressage, training tips, equine health care, maintenance and fun!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I was asked to write a little bit at this point in the show season about how I cope with ‘show nerves.’  I decided that instead of just hearing my method it might be better if I found out from some of my friends how they handle them too.  That way I could give you a bunch of ideas!  Genay said at the show she tries to keep herself busy around the barn with chores.  This keeps her from thinking about the ride itself.  I found that many of us have very specific routines about our gear, tack, and how we prepare.  In fact, although most of the young riders I know are very open and easy going normally, at shows we tend to be a bit anal about our routines and may seem  ‘touchy’ or ‘standoffish.’  I think this is because we have learned not only to visualize and practice our tests in our head but to visualize the entire day.  Our sport is about details.  Our rides are only minutes long but those minutes are filled with details.  For example, a six minute ride has 360 seconds.  If you have to think about 2 or 3 movements or detailed parts of a movement in a second that is 1080 actions in only 6 minutes.  So we develop ways to block out everything but our motion toward those 1080 actions.  Christine prepares by taping all her rides.  I mean all her rides and then going over every detail.  She gets direct and instant feedback.  I noticed that she like Genay and I also needs quiet time and space, and has a specific routine before competition.  Both Genay and I listen to music the day of the competition.  This is a direct way to isolate yourself from the noise, drama, emotions, and people around you.  It creates a type of bubble of space in your mind.  You concentrate on the music instead of the hundreds of questions in your head.  We all visualize our rides as we listen to music, every one of those 1080 motions over and over.  That visualization doesn’t just happen the day of the show.  I start months before a big competition doing it every night.  Then a big show isn’t big, you have already done it hundreds of times in your mind and it isn’t new.  Devon said she likes to take the butterflies and those fears and turn them into a positive thought.  When she thinks “I can’t do this, what if I fail, I should back out now,” she replays those thoughts as a new idea.  She says the butterflies are just excitement because “she loves this, and is just really excited to get in the ring.”   She said this transition in her thinking of butterflies as positive and not negative has helped her to have more fun and look forward to being in the ring.  It relaxes her and this also helps to relax her horse as well.  I have also watched Christine at a few shows these last months now.  I have realized that even Olympic medalists (and magical unicorns of dressage) still get excited before rides.  Maybe that is a good thing.  Maybe that is the magic, it means we care, it means we are thrilled to be doing what we do.  My friend Anna Buffini also feels this way about butterflies.  She sees them as a good thing.  We are excited by the love of our sport, by the thought of doing well.  When she gets nervous like Devon she tries to focus on positive thoughts and says inspirational quotes and bible verses to herself.  I do that too.  I even made a calendar this year of pictures of SJ and I with inspirational quotes. It hangs in the kitchen and every day (not just at shows) it reminds me to enjoy the energy of excitement.  One of my favorites from the calendar this year is “If you are offered a ride on a rocket ship, don’t ask which one…just get on!”

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