15 Tips For Handling Nervousness At Horse Shows

I’ve been competing in equestrian events for a long time. I’ve made some big mistakes over the years, but I’ve also learned a lot along the way. The following tips have helped me handle my nervousness at shows and learn how to be more confident around horses.

Show Series: Handling Nerves | Equestrian Prep
– It’s common to feel nervous before and during horse shows, so it’s important to be prepared mentally and physically.
– Pre-show preparation such as practicing relaxation techniques and visualization can help reduce anxiety.
– Build trust and bond with your horse to help them feel more relaxed.
– Create a pre-show routine to establish consistent preparation habits.
– Focus on safety as the top priority, and adhere to proper horse show etiquette to increase confidence and reduce nervousness.

1. Don’t Worry About What Others Are Doing

As a beginner, you’ll likely find yourself comparing yourself to other riders and wishing that you could do as well as they do. 

And while it’s important to have goals and strive for excellence, it’s equally important not to let this get in the way of enjoying your experience at horse shows! 

After all, there will always be someone who is better than you–and someone who is worse than you too! 

If we compare ourselves constantly with our peers (and especially those who are performing better), then we’ll never be happy with our performances or achievements because there will always be something else out there waiting for us

Sometimes even small adjustments to riding techniques can make a huge difference in safety outcomes. Make sure you’re using the proper techniques by checking out the Importance of Proper Riding Techniques for Safety guide.

2. Be Realistic

There’s a lot of pressure to perform at horse shows. You want to do well and your horse wants to do well, but we all know that things don’t always go according to plan.

If you’re nervous about showing, it can be hard not to feel like every mistake or bad decision will cost you the chance at the championship.

However, if this is how you approach your show day experience then it will feel like everything is riding on each class–and that can make anyone nervous!

Instead of viewing each competition as an opportunity for success or failure, try looking at them as opportunities for improvement instead. 

If something goes wrong during one class (or even two), don’t let yourself get down about it; just remember that there are still many other chances ahead where things can turn out differently!

Safety should be the top priority when horseback riding. Check out our 10 Essential Safety Tips for Horseback Riding guide to learn more about how to stay safe on your rides.

3. Get Plenty Of Sleep The Week Before

Get plenty of sleep the week before. It’s important to get enough rest, especially if you’re riding in a show the next day. Getting too little sleep will leave you feeling groggy and tired, which can affect your performance in a big way!

Don’t stay up late the night before–and don’t worry about what others are doing! You’ll be fine if your horse isn’t 100% ready for competition when it comes time for him/her to compete; just give yourself plenty of time so that everything goes smoothly!

Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night the week before the show
Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow for quality sleep
Try natural sleep aids such as chamomile tea or essential oils
Consider using a sleep tracking device to monitor your quality of sleep
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and blue light exposure before bed
Brands such as Casper, MyPillow, and Philips offer sleep products and technology to help improve overall sleep quality

Getting enough sleep is key to performing at your best during a horse show. Follow these tips for quality sleep and optimal performance.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you get. And when it comes to showing at horse shows, practice will help you feel more confident in your ability and skills as a rider.

Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend who will provide constructive criticism (and maybe even offer some encouragement). 

Then try it out with your horse! You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is when you’ve seen yourself doing it before–and what an impact that can have on how confident and relaxed both of you feel when facing those crowds on show day.

Mistakes can happen to even the best of competitors, but it’s important to know how to avoid common ones. Check out the Top Mistakes Horse Show Competitors Make and How to Avoid Them guide for insights on how to stay ahead of the competition.

5. Get To The Show Grounds Early

The sooner you get to the show grounds, the more time you’ll have to check in and get your horse ready for competition. 

Arrive with your tack and grooming kit in hand so that when it’s time for them to be put away, they’re already packed up and ready for storage or transport. 

If possible, practice riding around in an arena before competing so that both rider and horse become familiar with their surroundings–this can help reduce nerves when entering into unfamiliar territory later on during actual competition time!

6. Take A Friend

Taking a friend to the show is a great idea. Not only will they be able to help you stay calm, but they can also offer moral support if things go wrong. 

If you’re nervous about your run, it’s good to have someone by your side who can talk through it with you and make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Bring a friend or family member with you for moral and emotional support
Use a two-way radio communication device, such as those offered by Motorola, to stay in touch with your support person during the event
Familiarize your friend with your horse and provide them with basic safety guidelines
Allow your friend to help you with routine tasks such as grooming and tacking up, which can ease your workload and lower stress
Brands such as Ariat and SmartPak offer coordinated outfits and riding gear for you and your support person

Having a trusted friend or family member by your side is a helpful way to stay calm and navigate any challenges at a horse show. Follow these tips to make the experience more positive and enjoyable.

7. Review Your Test Before You Go Into The Ring

Reviewing your test before you go into the ring will help you focus on what needs to be done, which in turn will help you remember what needs to be done and feel more confident in doing it. 

It also helps relax nerves because there’s something concrete that has already been accomplished–you’ve learned how much time there is between each element, so now all that remains is executing them correctly!

Having the right saddle can help improve comfort for both the rider and horse. Learn how to choose and fit the right saddle by checking out The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Saddle for Your Horse guide.

8. Listen To Your Trainer’s Advice

Your trainer is there to help you learn, and they’ll often have a better understanding of the situation than you do. If they give you advice, it’s usually because they want what’s best for you and your horse. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or disagree with them if necessary–but don’t forget that at some point in time, it will be up to YOU (the rider) to make decisions about how things are going on the ground!

Listening to Your Trainer’s Advice

Follow your trainer’s guidanceYour trainer has experience and expertise in equestrianism, and their knowledge can be invaluable when managing nervousness.
Practice what you’ve been taughtConsistent repetition can help you internalize training techniques, making them more effective when you need them most.
Communicate with your trainerIf you’re feeling nervous, let your trainer know so they can provide guidance or offer alternative techniques to help calm your nerves.
Use recommended productsYour trainer may suggest tools or brands like Hit Air for protective equipment or Majyk Equipe for performance-enhancing gear. Trust your trainer’s experience and recommendations.
Set realistic goalsYour trainer can help you set achievable goals, which can help increase confidence and reduce nervousness at horse shows.

9. Make Sure You Eat Well

A good breakfast, lunch and dinner are essential for any athlete. If you are nervous about a show, make sure to eat something light and healthy right before your event starts so that your body has enough energy to perform at its best.

Afterward, refuel with some high protein snacks like beef jerky or nuts!

10. Don’t Take It Too Seriously

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and start worrying about what other people are doing, or how well you think your horse is performing. But this is a show, not a competition! The only thing that matters is that you have fun and enjoy yourself, so don’t worry about anything else!

Knowing proper horse show etiquette can help increase your confidence and reduce nervousness. Check out our Dos and Don’ts of Horse Show Etiquette guide to learn the best way to present yourself and your horse at shows.


I hope these tips will help you feel more confident when it comes time to show your horse. Remember, the most important thing is that you have fun! 

If you follow these tips and do what works best for you, then I’m sure everything will go smoothly. Good luck at your next show!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you manage nervousness when participating in equestrian competition:

Tips for Equestrian Competition Nerves: This article from the International Equestrian Federation provides tips on how to manage nervousness in competition settings.

8 Top Tips for Nervous Horse Riders: This guide from The Everyday Equestrian provides practical advice for riders who struggle with nervousness.

Handling Horse Showing Nerves: The American Quarter Horse Association provides guidance for managing competition nerves in this helpful article.


Here are some commonly asked questions about managing nervousness during horse shows:

How can I control nervousness before a horse show?

Practice deep breathing techniques, visualization exercises, and engage in other relaxation exercises to reduce pre-show anxiety.

What can I do to calm my horse if they sense my nervousness?

One way to reduce your horse’s stress levels is to maintain your own calm demeanor, which can help them feel more relaxed. It’s important to work with your horse regularly to build trust and bond with them.

What should I do if I start feeling nervous during my ride?

Practice techniques such as counting your breaths or engaging in positive self-talk to help manage feelings of nervousness during a ride. It may also be helpful to pause and take a break if needed.

Can nervousness impact horse show performance?

Yes, nervousness can impact both horse and rider performance and increase the likelihood of accidents. Taking steps to manage nervousness can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

How can I prepare for a horse show to avoid nervousness?

Make sure to practice frequently, including in a simulated competition environment. Familiarize yourself with the venue and schedule in advance, and create a pre-show routine to reduce the likelihood of nervousness and increase comfort levels.