I get very nervous at the in-gate. Do you ever get nervous? What do you do to overcome your nerves?
absolutely get nervous before showing! Sometimes it’s an excited feeling because I want to do well, but sometimes it can also be a daunting feeling brought on by an insecurity. Whichever it is, I try to embrace it. Getting upset by nerves will be counterproductive. I think about why I’m nervous: Is it a new horse? A higher-level class? A class with a lot of prize money? A qualifier? Then I try to reassure myself that I’ve done my homework with my horse prior to entering this class; that both my horse and I are prepared and confident in each other. This can help settle my nerves if they creep up the night before the show.
When it comes to show day, I have a mental checklist to make sure all of the show tack is ready, the horse has had a morning workout, my own show supplies are ready, the plan is set for the horse’s arrival to the ring, etc. It helps to make sure those things are all set, so I can focus on the course.
When I walk or learn the course, I try to stay by myself and not be swayed by other people’s plans. I know my horse, and know that six strides is right for us. It’s tough to hear others plan seven strides and not rethink or question your own plan. Stay confident that you know your horse. Sometimes I even use earbuds during a coursewalk to make sure I develop my own plan before I listen to how others will ride the track. Just because their plan is different doesn’t mean it’s better, and I don’t want it to influence the plan that I know will work for my horse.
In the schooling area, I practice turns that may come up and visualize what I’ll be jumping in the ring. Then, I land from the jump and start counting the strides while asking my horse to lengthen or shorten based on how I think that particular line will ride on course. I like to have focused schools so I’m more confident in the ring. It also gives me something else to think about instead of how nervous I am.
In the in-gate, I go over the course multiple times, thinking about how I’ll ride each turn, approach each jump and try to “feel” the canter I’ll need. I take deep breaths and try to remain calm by focusing my energy on how I’ll ride my best round.
When I enter the show ring, if I’m on a hunter, I trot on, then walk a few steps and take another deep breath before I canter. If I’m on a jumper, I may canter in and show my horse a challenging turn or a spooky jump, but then I always halt, and once again take a deep breath before I begin.
It may seem like a lot of steps, but I find comfort in knowing I’ve taken all the proper steps to ensure a solid performance. Things happen, and we don’t always do as well as we like, but I never want my nerves to be the reason things could have been better. I want to be able to manage any nervousness so I can feel excited — and that instead of hindering, my nerves can actually help to sharpen my performance!
How do you adjust to new gear, such as boots or a saddle?
There are no shortcuts on this one; the only way to adjust to new gear is through use. I wish I had a better answer or an easier way to break things in and get used to them, but for me it’s mainly been time.
The more times you’re able to use this new gear, the faster it will break in and the quicker it will feel more comfortable! I like to oil my tack to allow a richer color to soak in, and also to help its stiffness. CWD, for instance, offers a special conditioner to use on their saddles to help soften the leather for the break-in process. DerDau also offers its own unique blend of conditioning treatment to add to the suppleness of the leather for increased malleability with its boots.
It’s awesome to have new riding boots or tack, and part of the fun is the process of making it your own by allowing it to mold perfectly to your needs!
Do you have any rituals, traditions or superstitions?
There are definitely a few things that I’m superstitious about. I have specific socks that I like to wear for each horse when they have a big class. I also like to match my One K helmets with my jacket colors: a navy blue jacket for grand prix qualifiers and a black jacket for the grand prix. Before I get on, I like to reset my saddle to make sure it’s where I like it. But even if it looks good, I will do it anyway! I even have little rituals when my clients are showing. I may stand on a certain side of the in-gate or, for one woman, she always hands me her crop as she walks into the ring and I hold it in the same hand each round (but if we don’t do as well as we like, I swap the hand for the next trip). I’m not sure if these are simply habits, or if I actually believe doing these things will bring me luck, but I don’t want to chance it!