According to sports psychologists many people who suffer from performance anxiety are simply not adequately prepared. With that in mind, Grand Prix competitors David Marcus and Nicholas Fyffe have put together an incredibly helpful list of tips gleaned from their years of experience in the show ring. Their advice? Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you study their list and put it into action, you’ll come down the centerline at your next show like a pro.
Top 15 Tips for Show Ring Success
1. Do not expect your horse to be better in the show ring than he has ever been before:
Compete at a level under which you are schooling at home. You need to set yourself up for
success so it is a positive experience for both horse and rider. You want to gain confidence
in order to become a more effective rider.
2. Be prepared and organized: Follow a check list to ensure that you complete all the tasks
needed prior to the show so you do not forget any vital items. You should not be stressed
about forgetting anything the day of your test.
3. Dress rehearsal: When it is one week away from the show, practice your test from start to
finish to find out where the weak areas are. This gives you enough time to practice those
movements rather than find your weaknesses in the warm-up before your test or when you
are in front of the judge.
4. Break in your tack: Wear the exact same tack you will wear at the show at least a week
prior to riding down centerline. This includes your boots, bridle, bit, saddle, etc. You do not want things to feel different for you or your horse.
5. Time everything: You need to know how long it takes to braid, groom, tack up and head
from stabling to the warm-up ring. How long do you need to schedule your warm-up? If you
work backwards from your ride time in your hourly schedule, you will ensure yourself plenty
of time to be able to do a great job at everything without feeling rushed.
6. Be picture perfect: Set yourself up so that people take you seriously when you go down
centerline. Polish your boots, check that all your leather keepers are tucked in and wear
bright white breeches and a saddle pad. Show the judge a professional picture at any level
and at any horse show. The better you present yourself, the more confident you will feel
about what you are showing the judges. It’s not only respect for the judges, but it shows that you have respect for yourself and your horse — take yourself seriously as competitors.
7. Be selfish: Know what it takes for you to get in the zone. Don’t be afraid to communicate
your plan with your friends, family, staff or owners who are around you on the day of the
show. Some people thrive on having a large support group around them, while others need
quiet time to concentrate on their test.
8. Don’t win the warm-up if you want to win the test: In the warm-up, look for the edge —
how much can you push in your mediums? How small can you make your pirouettes? Look
for the mistakes in the warm-up so that you do not push too far in the test.
9. Follow the rules in the warm-up: Do your best to make the warm-up experience as
seamless for yourself and everyone in the ring. All the riders are in the same situation as
you. If someone cuts you off, be considerate to their mistakes. Do not let another rider’s
error distract you from your end goal in the warm-up, and do not let any of your errors be a
distraction for another rider’s warm-up. The courtesy goes both ways.
10. Practice the first centerline: In the warm-up, right before you head in the ring, practice your first centerline, halt and trot off. That is when you will be the most nervous in the test, and where your simple mistakes will occur. If you practice in the warm-up, you can hopefully get your mistakes out there so that you are not having them in the ring.
11. Keep focused: When you leave the warm-up and you ride around the show ring, don’t let
yourself or your horse lose focus. Don’t transfer a different feeling from one ring to another. Take a deep breath, concentrate and do the best you can that day.
12. Be inspired, not intimidated: If you compete in Wellington or any championship, you will
have the opportunity to ride beside and against some of the best riders in the world. It can
often be an intimidating experience for many riders. Spend time to watch their high quality
performances, enjoy the competitive environment and gain inspiration instead of allowing
yourself to be stressed or distracted. You paid the same entry fees as they did, and you
have the same right to compete as they do. Enjoy the ride!
13. Wear your poker face: When you ride down centerline, make eye contact with the judge
and concentrate on your ride. If you have a mistake, do not show frustration on your face or
in your position. The test usually looks better than it feels, so don’t tell the judge or the
spectators how terrible you think you are doing by your expression. Do not acknowledge the
mistakes and continue on through your test.
14. Stay hungry: Let the mistakes in your test make you hungrier and motivated to rack up
more points in the next movement. Do not dwell on the mistakes, and try to immediately
refocus on how you can improve the next movement. The difference between first and fourth
place is usually less than one percent, so keep scrounging for more points.
15. Positive reflection: No matter how well you perform in the test, the end result is you will either win or you will come away learning something. Regardless of the outcome, you will
learn aspects about your riding, your horse and how to improve your performance for the
next time you head down centerline.
Marcus Fyffe Dressage is a training operation based year-round at the heart of the
equestrian scene in Wellington, FL. International Grand Prix competitors, David Marcus and
Nicholas Fyffe provide outstanding care for horses and personalized training for riders of all experience levels in a positive and professional environment. Drawing on their diverse
backgrounds in the sport of dressage, David and Nicholas bring fresh perspectives coupled
with a systematic training method that puts the welfare of the horse first. Their commitment
to quality and an adaptable, goal-oriented approach has paid off with an impressive record
of top results for themselves and their clients.
ShowChic, the beloved upscale dressage boutique, is an authorized dealer for Pikeur, Cavallo,
Kentucky, Equiline, Kastel Denmark, UVEX, Samshield, Back on Track and more. In addition,
the Wellington Florida-based boutique hosts monthly “Shop Talks” throughout the show season
featuring leading equine industry professionals.
To see ShowChic’s top-of-the-line collection of dressage fashions, please visit
www.showchicdressage.com or call 561-319-2121.