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Horse Competition Success: Tips for Giving Your All.

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

A showjumper in action over post and rails fence

Summertime has finally arrived, horse and pony enthusiasts are eagerly anticipating a summer filled with horse competitions. Whether it's jumping, dressage, showing or cross-country, riders and their equine partners are preparing to showcase their skills and achieve success. Here are some success tips to help ensure that you and your horse are well-prepared for the upcoming competition season.

Establish a training plan.

A rider training a horse over poles

To reach your potential, it's crucial to lay out a training plan that includes consistent riding sessions and fitness work for your horse. Your chosen discipline will play a pivotal role in shaping this plan; it may entail refining particular abilities, like mastering the intricacies of jumping or the finesse of dressage movements, or introducing cross-country exercises to increase your horse's stamina and agility. Remember to methodically step up the challenge during your training sessions to limit the risk of injuries and guarantee your horse is in top-notch physical form.

Here are some practical guidelines to assist you in crafting a training plan tailored to your unique needs and those of your horse:

  1. Set Your Objectives

Before starting on your training journey, it's pivotal to define clear, specific objectives. Deliberate on what you aspire to accomplish—be it honing your jumping style mastering a dressage test, or gearing up for a particular competition. These precise goals will serve as your guiding star, providing focus and motivation throughout your training sessions.

  1. Evaluate Your Horse's Capabilities

Making a thorough assessment of your horse's abilities is a crucial step in shaping your training plan. Take into account factors such as age, breed, temperament, and physical condition. Also, consider any previous injuries or health concerns. This comprehensive evaluation will help you to plan the path toward exercises and training methods that align with your horse's unique attributes.

  1. Plan Your Training Timetable

Once your objectives and your horse's capabilities are clear, it's time to map out your training schedule. Factor in elements like your own availability, your horse's workload, and any impending competitions or events. Divide your training into distinct phases, such as conditioning, skill-building, and competition preparation. Create a schedule that works with both your and your horse's needs.

  1. Design a Tailored Training Regime

With your objectives, your horse's abilities, and your training schedule firmly in mind, the next step is to design a bespoke training regime. This program should include a diverse set of exercises and training methods that align with your horse's capabilities and your personal goals. Blend a mix of activities, such as flatwork, jumping, and riding out, to keep your horse engaged and enthusiastic about the training.

  1. Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation

As you progress through your training, maintaining a vigilant eye on your development is paramount. Embrace feedback from your instructor and fellow riders, using their insights to refine your training program. Regularly assess your horse's physical well-being and mental state, and make necessary adjustments to ensure their continued health and contentment.

In Conclusion:

Designing a training plan is a basis for riders striving to improve their skills and achieve their goals. Through the meticulous process of goal-setting, assessing your horse's abilities, constructing a well-timed training schedule, devising a tailored training regime, and embracing ongoing evaluation and adaptation, you can create a training plan that seamlessly aligns with you and your horse, propelling you toward your desired achievements.

Focus on Nutrition and Health.

A woman grooming her horse

You and your horse are a partnership, and you both want to perform your best during competition season. One of the most important things you can do to support your horse's performance is to focus on their health and nutrition before the season starts.

Maintaining your horse's overall health and wellness is vital for creating a winning formula. Before the competition season starts, it's a good idea to schedule a visit with your vet for a check-up, he can assess your horse's overall health and spot any underlying issues that may impact their performance. They will also recommend any necessary vaccines or deworming protocols.

In addition to a veterinary check-up, proper nutrition is essential for your horse's health and performance. During competition season, your horse's body will be under increased stress, and they will need more energy to perform at their best. A balanced diet that includes the appropriate amount of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals is crucial for your horse's overall health and performance.

To ensure your horse is getting the right nutrition, you may want to consult with an equine nutritionist. They can help you create a diet plan that is tailored to your horse's specific needs, taking into account factors such as their age, breed, and activity level.

Another important aspect of your horse's nutrition is hydration. During competition season, your horse will be sweating more, and they will need more water to replace the fluids they lose. Make sure that your horse has access to clean, fresh water at all times, and consider adding an electrolyte supplement to their diet to help replace the minerals lost through sweat.

In conclusion, focusing on your horse's health and nutrition before competition season is essential for their success. A veterinary check-up, a balanced diet, and proper hydration can help ensure that your horse is ready to perform at their best. By taking care of your horse's health and wellness, you are setting them up for success in competition.

Invest in Quality Equipment.

A well fitting saddle

Having to juggle finances in these challenging times is a common experience for many. However, investing in the best quality equipment you can afford, can have a notable impact on both your performance and your horse's comfort. Ensure that the equipment you choose is well-fitted and suitable for your specific discipline. Ill-fitting or inappropriate tack can result in discomfort and hinder your performance.

Crafting a competition routine is a valuable strategy to alleviate stress and enhance your performance when competing. Here are some practical tips for shaping a routine that suits you and your horse:

  1. Strategize Ahead of Time

Before competition day , allocate some time to meticulously plan your competition routine. Consider factors like the event's timing, venue, and duration. Plan your routine accordingly. Make a checklist of essential equipment and supplies, and make sure that everything is immaculate, well-organized, and ready for action.

  1. Early Arrival

Arriving at the competition venue well in advance can alleviate stress and provide ample time for warming up and acquainting yourself with the course or arena. Aim to be on-site at least an hour before your scheduled ride time. Use this window to complete registration, familiarize yourself with the course, and prepare both yourself and your horse.

  1. Mindful Warm-Up

A proper warm-up is vital for preparing your horse mentally an physically for the competition. Develop a warm-up routine tailored to your horse's requirements and the specific discipline you'll be engaging in. Ensure you allocate sufficient time for this crucial warm-up phase. Incorporate exercises like stretching, gentle jogging, and lateral movements to prepare your horse physically and mentally.

  1. Unwavering Focus

During the competition itself, maintaining steady focus is paramount. Avoid distractions from other riders or side influences. Concentrate intently on your horse and the course or arena. Use visualization techniques to mentally prepare and maintain concentration during your ride.

  1. Review and Learn

At the end of the competition, set aside time for a comprehensive review and self-reflection. Acknowledge your successes, regardless of their scale, and identify areas where improvement is possible. Harness these insights to adapt your training regime and preparations for future competitions. Every setback presents an opportunity for growth and learning.

In summary, constructing a competition routine serves as an invaluable tool for reducing stress and improving performance during competitions. By planning ahead of time, arriving early, executing a mindful warm-up, staying resolutely focused, and engaging in post-competition review and reflection, you can establish a routine that harmonizes with both you and your horse, ultimately propelling you toward your aspirations.

Maintain a Positive Mindset.

A signpost that reads Positive Mindset

Maintaining a positive mindset is highly significant in competitive situations. Here are some invaluable insights to aid you in cultivating and preserving a positive mindset:

  1. Embrace Progress Over Perfection

While it's admirable to have high standards for both yourself and your horse, it's equally important to acknowledge and praise the steps you make on your journey. Instead of fixating solely on achieving unattainable perfection or flawless results, channel your energy into refining your skills and enhancing your performance with each competition. Celebrate every triumph, no matter how seemingly modest, as they are stepping stones on your path to success.

  1. Stay Anchored in the Present Moment

External distractions, such as the performance of fellow riders or bad weather conditions, can easily divert your focus. Yet, fixating on these external influences can prove detrimental to both your performance and your mindset. Redirect your attention to the here and now, centering your focus on the immediate task at hand. Immerse yourself in the experience, concentrating on your ride, your loyal horse, and the elements within your area of influence.

  1. Maintain a Positive Outlook

A positive outlook displays remarkable influence in upholding a constructive mindset. Rather than dwelling on errors or setbacks, seize them as invaluable opportunities for learning and personal growth. Focus your perspective toward what remains within your control—your meticulous preparation, your performance, and, above all, your attitude. Approach each competition with a resilient, affirmative mindset, fully prepared to face challenges and embrace successes.

Visualize Success.

A pony wearing a red rosette

Utilizing the power of visualization is a profound technique in developing a positive mindset. Dedicate some time before the competition time to this practice, allowing it to shape your mental image. Imagine you and your horse performing at the height of your abilities. In this mental image, see yourself riding with total confidence and focus and precision. This form of mental rehearsal is an asset for boosting your self-confidence and laying the foundation for winning.

Visualization stands as a formidable friend in an a competitors tool box, equipping them to face competitions and seize their goals. Here are some useful pointers on how to use visualization as a tool for achieving success in horse riding competitions:

  1. Paint a Vivid Mental Canvas

To start your visualization journey, commence by painting a vivid mental portrait of yourself and your horse radiating confidence and triumph. Immerse yourself in the vision of flawlessly navigating the course or executing the routine with impeccable form and precision. Imagine every aspect in your mind's eye – the subtle tug of the reins, the rhythmic rise and fall of your horse's hooves.

  1. Activate All Senses

To enhance the benefit of your visualization, engage all your senses. Envisage the smooth texture of your horse's coat beneath your fingers, the deep sound of hooves striking the ground, and the smell of the arena. Surrounding your senses within the visualization experience enhances its realism and intensity, and so strengthening its effectiveness.

  1. Use Positive Language

As you imagine success in your mind, use positive language as your guiding light. Affirmations such as "I ride with unwavering confidence and precision" or "My horse and I harmonize perfectly" pulsate with positivity. Such affirmations support your self-belief and motivation throughout the competition.

  1. Visualize Diverse Situations

To make your visualization practice even better, try thinking about different scenarios. Imagine yourself succeeding in various challenges or routines. This can boost your confidence and make you feel more sure about what you can do, especially in unexpected situations.

  1. Regular Practice

To transform visualization into a potent incentive for success, blend it into your daily routine. Dedicate a few moments each day to immerse yourself in the colourful imagery of you and your horse excelling. Over time, this practice helps develop unshakable self-assurance and elevates your prospects of success.

In closing, visualization stands as a formidable ally for conquering horse riding competitions. Through vivid imagery, sensory engagement, affirmative language, diverse scenarios, and unwavering practice, you can wield visualization as a compass guiding you toward the height of achievement.

Sharon Shinwell of The Confident Rider Series


The Confident Rider website was created to help nervous horse riders overcome their anxiety and fear through the use of Self-Hypnosis. See the range

In addition to the Self-Hypnosis audio sessions, we also try to offer advice and resources about all aspects of owning or riding horses and ponies through this Blog. We welcome suggestions for topics that you would like us to cover.

I am a co-author of the popular book "Ride With Confidence," which was forwarded by Kelly Marks, the well-known Horse Whisperer.

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"This article represents the personal views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as representative of the official policy or position of any organization, professional, expert, or individual."

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