Pre-event calm for horse riders

With event pressure weighing heavy on many riders, Kim Dyson suggests some relaxation techniques.

Creative visualisation can help you change the way your brain perceives stressful situations. Here, a colourful chakra blanket is used to aid creative visualisation.
Photo: Kim Dyson

Pre-event jitters are a normal occurrence. But nerves can be soothed using a variety of techniques and therapies to help lift your spirits, boost your confidence and banish your fears. 

If you know what’s on offer and how each technique or therapy works, you can choose one that best suits your personality, time and budget. Just remember – adrenaline can enhance your performance, so try to avoid anything that makes you too relaxed.

Mind over matter
Positive association – birds of a feather flock together, so, it stands to reason that if you associate with friendly, confident people, you’ll pick up on their mannerisms. Positive, confident people do feel nervous too, but it’s the way that they react that makes the difference.

Imagining – a good technique for banishing nerves is to imagine something more scary than what you and your horse are about to do and then compare it to what you are about to do.

Creative visualisation – this can change the way your brain perceives stressful situations – the idea of daydreaming your way to success is really appealing.

Self hypnosis – a very effective confidence booster – many self help CDs utilise hypnotic techniques.

Meditation – enables you to focus and calm your mind to trigger the body’s natural relaxation response. It’s an excellent tool for eliminating nerves and taking control of negative thought. A silent mantra will help your mind focus on the task at hand.
Music – certain types of music can be emotive enough to change your mood.

Take a deep breath
Breathing isn’t just for woman in labour. It actually changes your brain waves, which in turn changes your heart rate and perspiration. This assures your horse that you’re in control.

Yoga is an excellent way to learn slow deep breathing and it has the advantage of lifting your mood, reducing your stress levels and improving your fitness.

Alternative therapy
Acupressure – follows the same principles as acupuncture, but without the needles. Light pressure is applied to the body on relevant points to alleviate anxiety. Combining acupressure with aromatherapy is a very powerful way to relieve stress.

Aromatherapy – Lavender, frankincense and neroli are some of the most soothing oils available. Mix a few drops of your favourite oils and spray them around you, or put a few drops in your bath. You could also put calming oils on the palms of your hands and then gently inhale the fumes. Allowing a nervous horse to smell your hands too will have fantastic results.

Homeopathy – minute doses of a substance are administered to mimic an ailment, which stimulates the body to heal itself naturally.

Herbalism – the oldest form of treatment, which allows herbs to build up in the body in order to bring about balance.

Reiki – a gentle and safe method that provides the body with the perfect environment for healing. Emotional hurts can be addressed in this way.

Hypnotherapy – a valuable alternative to medication. The power of suggestion can help you face your fear.

Crystals –a great way of providing a clear energy field and positive environment.

Whichever therapy you choose, taking matters into your own hands and seeking help will definitely improve your confidence. Soon you will be riding out in the field or jumping at the Sappi horse trials.