Make sure your brakes work
There’s little that can spook a rider more than the thought of not being able to stop their horse. Linked to a fear of open spaces, worrying that your horse might run off will likely make you tense. Your horse can pick up on your fear, so tackle it head on. “Your horse doesn’t think about the future, he just reacts to the now,” says Helen. “If you’re worrying that he might bolt and getting anxious about it, he’ll sense there’s something for him to be nervous about.”
How to prepare at home
One simple way to help overcome a fear of your horse bolting is to use an empty field to school in — seeking permission first, of course — each time you’re out hacking. “You might not think about it, but open spaces are all around you when hacking,” says Helen. “Use them to practise your schooling movements, for example riding serpentines and figures of eight. It’ll boost your confidence.”
What to do on the day
Instead of worrying about what your horse might do on the day, set yourself mental boundaries — especially if you’re riding in an open space. “Picture an arena in your mind and stay within that space,” explains Helen. “Imagine A at one end and C at the other, and ride within the limits you’ve set in your mind.” Having a set warm-up routine that you can ride is another good way to give your brain something else to think about.
Staying calm and being used to riding in open spaces before you compete are the makings of an enjoyable day