Horse Show Jitters

In 3 days, Val and I will be at our first horse show since we fell during a jump-off 6 months ago, and I walked away with a mild concussion. We’ve gone off property for a clinic and cross country schooling, but we haven’t actually showed since then. I have the normal jitters that come before a show, which are quite normal for me. Thoughts like “Will I give my horse a fair ride?” and “What if he’s really spooky?” always go through my head.

But I’m also experiencing this new thing where I’m getting too much in my own head. New thoughts like “What if I walk in the ring, and remembering that fall makes me freeze up?” or “What if we hit a slick or loose spot, and I cause my horse to fall again?” have been popping up. It’s a valid concern I think, because I didn’t get to do what you normally would after a fall–that is, get back in the ring, and maybe get time faults, but just do it again to prove to yourself that you can. I don’t actually remember the fall, so maybe it will be OK, but I also don’t remember what I did that made things go south, which kind of makes it a little scarier. I don’t know what NOT to do, and because I over think, that has me worried too.

For all I know, I’ll walk right in and be fine. But I just don’t know how I or my horse will react when we walk in the ring, and because of the super planner that I am, I hate that.

We had a fabulous school on Valentine’s day that helped my jitters. We jumped 3’6 courses with ease, and even when I made a mistake, or didn’t pick the best spot, Val was clean and game, and didn’t feel like he struggled at all.


Don’t mind me. Just making poor life choices and going for the flyer.

We didn’t do any crazy tight turns, but we did lots of loops and he was really rideable and adjustable, even if he was also a little wild. Our first course was a bit wild and wooly, but as we kept schooling, he got better and better. To Val’s credit, we had gusting wind, and I was feeling a little intimidated by the jumps, which meant that I wasn’t always thinking through the ride. Despite that, he was really good if a bit fussy.

Yesterday we had one last school before the show. We didn’t do anything huge, and the ring is getting a little harder so we didn’t do anything insane, but we did still practice some tight and tricky turns, and we practiced coming off a jump, and cantering to the rail to get to a jump which never really computes in Val’s brain. Everything was around 3′, and even when he was surprised, he picked his feet up and scooted  cantered around decently. What I learned from this lesson, is that when warming up at the show, I need to insist on bending, and I need to ride my whole course like we’re flatting and not let him go around with a counter bend for the whole course, or we will miss any jumps on the rail.


That’s a much better choice there, self.

I keep reminding myself that whether or not we decide to go ahead and move up at this show, the point of this one is mostly to get back in the ring again, and to walk away feeling brave and confident in myself and my horse. Right now at least, I’m not at all concerned about getting hurt, so much as not being competitive, or giving my horse a bad ride and pulling a lot of rails.

But even that is a silly way to think. Is my end goal to be competitive? Yes. But for right now, if I need to have time faults to feel like my horse was happy and I felt safe going around, that’s OK. I don’t know if it will come to that. The last time I had a serious fall that caused me some anxiety I was 17, and I was able to get right back on and work through the issue.


I think we probably will be competitive, and in the end, no one will be judging me but myself if I pull rails or have time faults. What matters is that we jump all the jumps, and neither of us walks away feeling scared or unhappy. He’s my horse now, and we have all the time we need.

How do you deal with horse show jitters that are completely in your head? Have you ever taken a long break from showing after a bad fall, and then been nervous when you got back to it?

10 thoughts on “Horse Show Jitters

  1. Sports Psychology and acknowledging that falls happen and its a dangerous sport that could kill us and likely maim us. Other than that sour note (I’m such a cherry person yeah?) I think you guys will do great! Just relax, and breathe.

    1. Funnily enough, what I’m more worried about (right now at least) is not the actual getting hurt part, but more that I won’t ride as well because subconsciously I’m nervous. I just really want to do my uber talented horse justice. But breathing will probably be the most important thing this weekend! And for the next few days leading up to the weekend.

  2. getting back into it after time off (esp time off from an injury) definitely invites all these crazy little ‘what if’ thoughts into my mind. but if i just ride the way i know how and stay clear about my objectives and goals, things usually work out just fine. i hope you and Val do great!

  3. Christine

    Breathe, and stay in the moment. Not the moment that could happen, but the moment you’re in. Set a smart goal- like riding the first class like an eq course. Val won’t be thinking about what happened that one time, he’ll be in the moment. Be there with him. As your confidence returns, so will your competitive nature and you’ll start to push the turns and speed. But ride smart. Balance the horse for efficient turns. Feel what is happening in that moment and respond. And if you let your nerves get ahead of you, be gentle with yourself and try again.

Leave a Reply