Lyndsey Ryder

Top Tips for Mentally Preparing for Competitions with Lyndsey Ryder

If your horse is a real worrier, or they’re laid back and it’s you who is the nervous one, the best place to work on all these areas and prepare for your test ahead is at home.

We asked Petplan Equine Ambassador Lyndsey Ryder for her top tips on preparing mentally for competition. Here are her top three…

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1 - Keep your horse’s work varied.

My boy loves a carefree hack around the woods. Not only does this mean he gets to the see the world, he also learns to cope if situations arise. Sometimes we include a few schooling moves without the pressure of being in the school. When a competition is looming it’s easy to get focused on the test but remember, it’s meant to be fun for both of you and a change of scenery can make all the difference.

2 - Desensitise to the competition environment.

If your horse is a worrier and can be spooky at a show, work at home to desensitise them to the competition environment.

  • White boards - You can purchase white guttering from any DIY store to help with white board training. I leave the boards in my school at home until my horse is happy without issue, once he is confident, I remove them and spontaneously drag them back out once a week. Why? To teach him first to accept them, then to accept change.
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  • Banners - You can order cheap banners online or, of course, be resourceful and make your own. At first, my horse was very nervous, so I led him around keeping myself closest to the banner. Once he was confident on the ground, I hopped onboard, keeping him slightly off the track if needed until he was completely relaxed.
  • The judges car - I often park my car in the middle of the school, sometimes with the music playing. It’s simple and helps them relax around the ‘judges’ car’.
  • The judges box - The best thing to do is book an arena hire, maybe take your instructor along too. Arena hires are so valuable, allowing the horse to familiarise himself with the surroundings without the pressure of the bell. You can make it as formal or relaxed as you like, a chance for bonding and preparing for future events.
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3 - Prepare yourself mentally on the show day.

I like to draw the test out on a piece of paper as it helps me log it in my head. Then I ride through it at home, working out our strengths and weaknesses and go from there. On the day I tell myself whatever happens, happens, but I like to make sure both of us are prepared and also look the part. When you first trot down that centre line I want the judges to sit up and take notice (for the right reasons). If my nerves are high I remember ‘it’s the same stuff, different arena’ and if my horse feels nervous, it’s time to pull up my big girl pants and help build his confidence. We all want to do our best, but remember you are only being judged on just five minutes of riding. As for the test, you either win or learn, and remember, rosettes are earned at home and shows are where you collect them.

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