Do you experience that nervousness and tension in the body can affect your performance in the saddle? Some feel it when they are about to enter the arena for a competition, while others are challenged by it in their daily training. Regardless of where and when you struggle against nerves, here are two techniques that can help you overcome them. Remember, you should never blame yourself for being nervous. Instead, protect those difficult emotions and spend your energy getting to know your body. When you know how to handle nerves, you can also calmly tell yourself that everything will be alright.
Breathing exercises can help you well on the way. The more you practice it, the more natural it will also become for you when it really matters. Therefore, try to do this exercise as much as you can in your everyday life – at home, at work, or maybe on the way home in the car. It can be done very discreetly. In this way, it will feel more natural when you need to use the exercise in the saddle. Hopefully, you get it so well under the skin that you can use your breathing to dispel nerves without even thinking about it.
It is the motion you make when you exhale air from the body that should calm you. Therefore, you should take longer to exhale than to inhale.
Another exercise is to release the tensions in the body, which naturally come along when nerves start creeping in. The tensions can make it even harder for you to perform as you would like. For example, you will quickly notice how much easier it is to perform sitting trot in dressage when your body is relaxed compared to when it is tense. The horse can also immediately feel if you are nervous – and it rubs off. Therefore, it comes back doubly when you practice relaxing on the back of your horse.
When one tenses up, one tends to clench the teeth tightly together, and the tensions from the jaws propagate throughout the rest of the body. Therefore, this exercise can be beneficial for the tension in the entire body. If you still feel nervous, you may also need to focus on relaxing your shoulders. They tend to be pulled up when one gets nervous, and this too spreads to the rest of the body.
The best thing you can do is, of course, to perform the two exercises simultaneously. Start doing the exercises before you mount the horse if you can feel that you are getting nervous. Then try to perform the two exercises on the back of the horse and see if it doesn’t make at least some of the nerves bounce off. The more you practice it, the greater effect it will have – and everything will be alright.