How to beat/control dressage test nerves? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 8 Old 07-17-2013, 01:30 AM Thread Starter
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How to beat/control dressage test nerves?

Does anyone have any tips on how to manage nerves when riding a dressage test?

I have a comp in 2 weeks, and I struggle with containing my nerves when I ride a dressage test. I don't have a problem remembering a test, that part is really easy for me, its the being judged part. I find freestyle tests much much easier as I have to concentrate on the music as well as the actual test, but straight dressage tests I get really tense. Which in turn makes my mare tense up, so then I start riding her badly and everything just turns into a mess.

The nerves is something I have suffered with for as long as I can remember, and the only way I have been able to control it in the past is by going to as many training days as possible and just riding tests, but unfortunately there haven't been any training days in the last few months. I am going to a training day this weekend, so that is a start, but any tips to help me control or use my nerves to my advantage would be hugely appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-17-2013, 01:44 AM
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If like the music then why not have a song you like that relaxes you in your head and hum it as ride the test? You could use this song at home in familiar surroundings not under pressure as warm up and then use it away from home riding similar warm up to relax yu and your horse then in the test??

Also many rec bachs flowers natural remedies for nerves and confidence which you can give a horse too.

I find as daft as it sounds smiling helps although I prob look like a looney with a manic grin frozen on my face haha.

A sports therapist told me to imagine myself riding a lovely test and visualising winning but this didnt work for me as I put pressure on myself to win and was last lol. Another told me to remember there are people watching me thinking I wish I had my own horse/had the nerve to do this/ what a stunning horse etc etc and just think go and have fun and strut your stunning horse.

A big thing for me is thinking I am lucky to be here giving it a go when thought horse was going to have be retired years ago and this is just a fun bonus ribbon or not.
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-17-2013, 01:54 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks TBminx, I really like the song idea!

I'll have a look into natural remedies for nerves, I'm not concerned about my mare, she's as cool as a cucumber so long as I can keep the nerves under control. She's happiest with an audience!

I've tried imagining the judge sitting in their car in their undies, but all that did was give me a horrible mental picture along with the nerves lol.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-17-2013, 06:28 AM
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I am like you..the test is memorized, horse is ready to go and I am hyperventilating. I now simply go into the ring and imagine I am at home with my friends and coboarders just looking on as we do with each other. My dad, when I was riding hunters as a junior, had a sign made up with just one word in BIG capital letters....BREATHE! Thanks to my riding nerves I can hold my breath for a full 2 mins..was a great skill when I learned to scuba dive :)..my tank lasted a lot longer.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-17-2013, 07:20 AM
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Breathe, breathe, breathe. I try to remember my horse is counting on me to stay calm, so I need to do it her her. I also try to think envision all my good rides at home. Sometimes I'll even whisper to my horse "just like we're at home". Let the crowds, judge and other riders drift away!
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-21-2013, 01:29 AM
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Rescue remedy works great for nerves. I've used it for shows and senior speeches/projects and it works great! If not that, we keep Bach Aspen around our barn
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-21-2013, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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So I managed to get through my 2 training tests, and I stayed calm through both! Singing under my breath definitely helped.

Now I just need to fix a couple of things before my comp in 2 weeks and I will be happy :)
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-22-2013, 10:51 AM
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I find when I memorize my tests I "add" steps inbetween movements - e.g. On a 20 meter circle at the 1/4 way point I think - is horse relaxed and stepping nicely under herself? (my mare likes to giraffe, especially when nervous).

Point is to "rider every step" hence during a movement instead of thinking 20 meter circle at "A" and nothing until you are done the circle, think of how you want the horse to feel/go while riding that circle.

Are horses hind legs active? Does horse feel relaxed? Is head at correct height? (My older mare likes to carry her head too low and fall on her forehand, my show mare likes to giraffe and hollow - so different corrections for each mare DURING the test). Don't forget that rider is supposed to fix problems as soon as you feel them - which should be before or at the same time as the judge sees the problems. Better to fix them problem as soon as you feel it otherwise it allows the horse to continue to be incorrect throughout the test.

You'll soon find that as you are concentrating on making the horse correct that you lack the time to get nervous until the test is over.

Dressage is for Trainers!
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