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Horse Show Mental Preparation

Ten tips from trainer Shannon MucCulloch-Verdier that'll help you quiet your nerves and mentally prepare for the horse show ring.

By Shannon McCulloch-Verdier with Patty Roll Brumley

Mental strategies can help you focus for success.
Photo by Darrell Dodds
In the June 2005 issue of Horse & Rider magazine, Carol Metcalfe shared her stay-cool strategies for the horse show ring. Here are 10 more tips to add to your pre-ride routine to help you mentally prepare:

1. Think of your mental energy as liquid in a bottle and never waste it. Don't sweat the small stuff, or you'll be using up your mental energy on things that don't matter, when you should be reserving your energy for the show ring.

2. Don't compare yourself to the competition. It takes your focus off your own performance.

3. The playing field is always equal. If you're worried about bad footing, for example, remind yourself that everyone else will be facing the same problem.

4. Control what you can, let go of what you can't. You can control how much sleep you get, how much time you have to warm up your horse and how organized you are.

5. Get organized and use a game plan. Waiting until the last minute creates unnecessary stress. Make a to-do list, laminate it and post it where you can see it and check off what you've done.

6. Compete with yourself. Establish a standard of excellence and strive for it. Remember, the judge's approval of your performance isn't the ultimate barometer of your success.

7. Never stop showing. If you make a mistake, correct it and ride on like nothing ever happened.

8. Take ownership of the outcome. Make yourself responsible for your performance.

9. Set realistic goals. Goals must be specific, measurable and attainable.

10. Surround yourself with a positive environment. Block out negativity and distraction. If anyone affects you negatively--whether it's your spouse, a friend or even your trainer--find a way to confront that person and overcome that affect, even if it means avoiding the person until you're able to regain your focus.

These tips were excerpted from an article that ran in the January 1997 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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