Confessions of a Horse Show Mom’s Daughter: Nerves, and dealing with them

“Confessions” columnist Barbara Hamilton’s daughter, Emma Bond, chimes in with her take on horse show stress.

From Emma:

I’ve been showing for nearly three years now and I can remember my first show as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was probably more nervous than I’d ever been, yet I covered it up with a smile, a pretty show jacket and my strapping new jodhpurs. I was riding an easygoing, very considerate lesson horse, but at that very moment in time that didn’t matter: I was doing my first show

With some time and practice just like anything else, my nerves began to ease away. I moved onto a devilish little pony (who to this day I still love with all my heart) and began showing more frequently. While riding this new pony named Treasure, we placed quite well at almost every show we entered.

So when the time came and my trainer told me the news (as I’m sure you all have read in my Mom’s previous article) that I wasn’t going to be riding him anymore, I was a bit devastated. But I took to Darcy, my new pony, very quickly. Naturally when we decided to do our first show together I was ecstatic—I had had such luck in the past I fooled myself into thinking I would do the same this time around. Although I was correct and at the first show we did well, after that something just wasn’t right.

The next show we went to I rode as if I had never sat on a horse a day in my life. To quote my fellow barn members:

“All I kept thinking was Emma BREATHE!”

“You looked like you were going to cry.”

“I’ve never seen her ride with her reins that short in my life.”

“You’ve never ridden like that before. I don’t know what came over you.”

I had let my nerves get the better of me. Yet I wasn’t dealing with the same type of nerves I had when I first began showing. These sent me into a state of nervousness that Darcy had begun to react as well. I just over-thought it. I was so used to riding Treasure that I just assumed Darcy would act up and I was going to fall–worries I had never had before.

After that show I became concerned that I had hit my breaking point. “I’m going to lose it all,” I thought. “All of my years of training. I’m going to lose it. Down the drain.” You see the one thing I believe many people don’t know about showing, or don’t truly realize, is the stress and pressure that comes along with it. Sometimes it isn’t even from your trainer or your family members—but from you. You truly can be your own worst enemy.

I couldn’t figure out what was happening, why I had suddenly hit a roadblock. Neither could my trainer or my Mom. So together my trainer and I worked on overcoming my nerves. I know my horse isn’t malicious or mean—she’s just a mare, she’s got her bad days and her good days, just like me.

That is by far my most important piece of advice for any riders who might be currently suffering from something similar to this: Be comfortable with your horse. If you aren’t that could jeopardize everything. You and your horse are a team; you need to be able to trust that horse with your life and if you simply aren’t comfortable that is a major issue. Speak up and voice your concerns to your trainer and your parents.

Even though I was convinced I had officially lost it, I am glad to say I have not! Recently I’ve been working on controlling my nerves and I can say (knock on wood) that I have made great strides (no pun intended).

Showing nerves shall be no more.

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