a horse show preparation system; even
getting to the showground early helps.”
Once in the saddle, Sasson-Edgette
recommends that you adopt cues to
remind yourself of characteristics
you’d like to project. For example, she suggested to one rider to
use color to remind her to remain
“She felt that blue was a confi-
dence color because it reminded
her of a captain’s hat, so she wove a
blue thread into her horse’s mane,”
Sasson-Edgette recalls. “She reminded
herself to stay confident every time
she looked at her horse’s mane.”
Another rider used music to
remind her that she had the power to
“Aaron Copeland’s ‘Fanfare for the
Common Man’ represented power
to her,” says Sasson-Edgette. “Before
she entered the ring, she’d stand at
the entrance and play the song in
Whatever tactics riders use to rise
to anxiety-connected challenges, it
may ultimately be impossible for them
to entirely erase anxiety from their
show experience. But that, Johnston
believes, may not be such a bad thing.
“If you want to avoid making anxi-ety-related mistakes in the show ring,
you must have a passion for whatever
the challenge is, then bring all the
gems that you learned from experience forward,” she says.
It’s a message that is not lost on
Yakin-Palmer. “Performance jitters are
tough demons to dispel, but experience helps,” she says. “The more I
show, the less anxious I become about
it. Still, I realize that I will never get
rid of all my performance anxiety, and
that’s OK—I learn more about myself
and my horse every time we go to a
PATRICE D. BUCCIARELLI is a freelance
writer based in Florida.
we’re anxious about performing anyway.”
Goals You Can Control
According to Sasson-Edgette, those who do take part in horse shows can
manage their performance jitters by acknowledging that the anxiety exists, and
by reminding themselves that ultimately the horse show experience is about
bonding with their horses and having fun with friends.
Some riders also invite anxiety by setting goals that are impossible to achieve,
such as competing to satisfy a trainer or to impress others.
“Even if you have the ride of your life, you don’t have control over what peo-
ple say,” says Johnston. “For example, you can have a good ride, and people will
completely ignore it and say, “Wow, what a pretty horse!’”
Instead of stressing over the favorable opinions of others, remember that every
judge’s decision is based on a single ride in a single class on a single day. Every
rider should strive for a personal best, not a blue ribbon.
“Remember, everyone is riding their own game,” says Johnston. “And nobody
knows you better than you do.”
Sasson-Edgette believes that the key to challenging performance anxiety lies not
in trying to overcome it, but in robbing the feeling of its power instead.
“Anxiety is part of the deal and you have to accept it, but if you direct your
attention to it, you give it power,”’ says Sasson-Edgette. “You want to give your-
self permission to feel it and turn it into white noise in the background, so that
you’re saying, ‘I know you’re there, but I’m busy thinking about something else
right now and it’s not you’; that way you stop the fight.”
Even so, riders are not without tools to help them minimize their perfor-
mance-related anxiety. Moshier recommends taking the stress out of show-day
preparations by creating a system to address basic logistics.
“People worry about parking the trailer and whether they remembered to pack
everything they needed before they left home,” says Moshier. “Instead, come up with
Going off course
or forgetting a test
can be one result
of show nerves.