How to not be nervous for a horse show? (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous for a horse show” and some useful tips on how to kick your nerves to the curb. However, consider how the best thing to do is understand why you get nervous or what makes you nervous so you can start by tackling the situation from the root cause. 

How to not be nervous for a horse show?

If you are wondering ‘How to not be nervous for a horse show?’ know that feeling horse show jitters is completely normal, even pros and the most experienced people get nervous before a may feel unprepared or not confident enough to attend the show or you may be nervous about making mistakes.

If what makes you happy and motivated is to ride horses or compete at horse shows then make sure your nerves won’t take the best out of you or prevent you from doing what you are passionate about. Knowing why you feel nervous can help to understand and identify what you are afraid of, but sometimes it’s not that simple. If you are starting or you are a first-timer, here are some useful tips on how to kick those nerves to the curb. 

Here are some quick tips but we will mention others in more detail:

  • Reduce or limit your caffeine intake. Many people don’t know but caffeinated beverages will only amp up your nerves or anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep. If you are tired or fatigued because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep then you’ll be distracted, have difficulties concentrating and remembering your patterns.
  • Eat healthily. This will help you keep good energy levels, feel better, and stabilize your nerves when you perform. Have plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lots of water, whole grains and other sources of protein.
  • Do breathing exercises. Start by doing deep breathing exercises in a relaxed environment and once you have learned the technique you can practice when you are on-course or running a patter.

Why do I feel nervous?

As we have mentioned, it is very useful to identify the reason why you get nervous when you are competing so you can identify what you are afraid of and address it properly. However, there seems to be a few common reasons for performance anxiety:

  • You feel the pressure because everyone is watching you and there are no second chances if you make a mistake.
  • You want to perform to your standards, to do it as well as you do it at home but you feel helpless for not being able to make that happen or control the outcome of the show.
  • You feel that the outcome will either make you feel proud or disappointed by your lack of judgement about the choice of trainer and/or horse. 

If you feel identified with one of the reasons or you have identified a reason of your own then (i.e. previous experience, unrealistic expectations, etc.) then you can move forward, challenge and contrast your thoughts with reality. For instance, if you say, ‘I am afraid I will make a mistake’, ask yourself, ‘what kind of mistake am I afraid of the most?’. After you have identified the type of mistake, think about how many times you have made the mistake or how likely it is to make such a mistake.

You can’t control or predict the future and catastrophizing or thinking about all the worst scenarios won’t help you feel any better. Consciously decide to live the present moment.

Attend (several) local shows

Try to attend several local or larger shows when possible so you can get the idea and the feel for the scene. Watch the classes you are more interested in competing in and walk through the barns and stall areas. Also, stay alert so you can get the feel for the real deal.

Observe and analyze the behaviour of the participants, try to write down any important details that you can review later on. You could also talk to a few people and ask for advice, see how they cope with their nerves or what strategies work for them. 

Talk to others that show in the upper levels

Talk to your friends, trainer or people you know who show in the upper levels and ask them for honest feedback. However, be careful when receiving feedback since not everyone hears it as ways to improve but criticism. 

On the other hand, getting the feedback from people you trust can help you decide if a showing is something you would like to pursue.

Arrange to trailer your horse to one of the big shows

As recommended by world-champion pro and coach Carol Metcalf, “Once you’ve decided you want to show, first introduce your horse to the show scene before you’re there to compete. Just let him hang out. Stall him for some of the time; walk him around the showgrounds; let him watch the other horse-and-rider teams in the warm-up pen. This will allow you to predict how your horse will handle the stress of showing.”

Work with a known trainer

If you are going to be coached or trained, make sure it is a reputable trainer. To show at the upper levels, you need to have someone experienced guiding you, helping you progress and prepare for those classes in which you will be competing.

Even if you are experienced enough, the guidance from someone well-known is essential for this level of competition. However, consider doing some research and talking to different trainers before you decide which one will work with you. Moreover, you may know already how good trainers are expensive and if the money is tight, maybe you need to give this thoughtful consideration.

Show clothes and other items 

Tack, show clothes, among other items can be quite expensive. However, the good news is that there are several ways you can get to show clothing and tack at lower prices. You could also rely on your trainer and get advice on the matter.

Live the present moment

Many people would say ‘Well it is obvious’ but it is not that simple. When we are anxious we start thinking about the future, things that haven’t happened yet. This is especially true since we talk about future ‘catastrophic’ events such as thinking about falling, making a mistake or freezing. We are normally not aware consciously about how we tend to become ‘What if’ junkies so we need to learn to stay firmly rooted in what is happening in the present moment.

For instance, if you think ‘what if I fall’, think about how many times so far you have fallen from the horse. Probably you haven’t so far or you did in the past once or twice, so it makes sense it has become one of your biggest fears. When you have these types of thoughts, always try to contrast them with reality. 

Exercise your confidence

Some people may argue confidence is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. You need to be consciously aware of your skills and strengths over your weaknesses. It is easier to beat yourself up for mistakes or things you consider to be weaknesses but the idea is to consider them as areas of improvement instead with the mindset of downfalls. 

Subsequently, remember to be kind to yourself and don’t shame yourself for feeling anxious. However, if you feel too overwhelmed by your nerves and they are taking control over your life, consider seeking professional help.

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous for a horse show important?

As discussed, being nervous about a horse show or competition is normal. However, we mostly see the nerves as something negative because it can affect our performance. But there are always options available to manage our nerves. For instance, identifying what makes us nervous can put us in the right direction to understanding why we get nervous and will allow us to tackle the reason so we can develop coping skills.

Just as we mentioned, there are some simple tips to consider such as limiting your caffeine intake, getting enough sleep or eating healthy. However, there are other more specific things such as attending several shows when possible, arranging to trailer your horse to one of the big shows, work with a known trainer, live the present moment or look for advice on where to get show clothes and items for a good price.

To improve your quality of sleep, add this pillow spray and the best anxiety sheets you can find to your bed. In addition, you can decorate it with stuffed animals and put some earplugs for the noises. We recommend the following Best Earplugs For Anxiety, where the Stiizy Pods and Pax Era Pod for anxiety stand out, where you can put Binaural Beats.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous for a horse show

How do you calm a nerve in a horse?

Here are some tips for tackling your nerves:

– Accept your nerves are normal and part of your horse show experience. 

– Consider how your show nerves can compromise your riding, and compensate for that.

– Give yourself a break, no need to put more pressure on yourself.

Can a horse tell if you’re nervous?

According to some researchers and some studies, horses do seem to read some signals that may indicate someone nearby is stressed or afraid, at least in certain circumstances.

What is the most gentle breed of horse?

The most gentle breed of horses may be quarter horses since they are known for their good minds and disposition. Many draft breeds are also said to be extremely gentle.

What is the best calming supplement for horses?

One of the best calming supplements for horses may be valerian root and chamomile, which are two of the most common herbs found in calming products. Both herbs are reported to soothe edginess and function as a sleep aid. Even if valerian is said to be stronger than chamomile, it is considered banned in some equine associations.

Do horses poop when nervous?

Horses can poop when they are nervous or stressed, you can notice because they can produce copious amounts of manure in a short period. Some horses may even produce very runny manure and they may also often urinate if stressed. 


Harrison, A. (2017, Mar.) How to Beat Horse Show Nerves. Retrieved from

Jenkins, S. (2020, July) .10 tips to banish competition riding nerves. Retrieved from “33 Things You Can Do Now to Calm Riding Nerves Forever”