Your first competition: What you have to pack and what helps against nervousness

Islandpferde WM Teilnehmer

The first competition is associated with great excitement for horse and rider and weeks are spent practising for the selected competition. But apart from the training, there is also a lot of organisation involved in preparing for a competition. For example, the necessary and, above all, suitable equipment has to be procured, time management has to be planned and, of course, the right outfit has to be chosen. Being well prepared is the be-all and end-all. We have a few tips for you to make your first (or second or third) tournament start easier.

Autorin: Karolina Kardel, 360 Grad Pferd

The right tournament and the right test have been selected and the date has been set: now it's time for the optimal preparation. And this concerns not only training, but also the right equipment (Read here are infomations how to sing up)

1. Choosing the right outfit

Always perfectly dressed at the tournament: Silvia Ochsenreiter-Egli with Heljar

The search for the right outfit is something we female riders in particular like to occupy ourselves with. Not every jacket fits the figure and not every saddle blanket harmonises with the colour of the horse. But when choosing a tournament outfit, besides the question of whether the colour of the horse and the jacket harmonise, one should also take a look at the respective competition regulations, which also include the dress code. For example, riders at international Icelandic tournaments must wear a riding jacket, a plain-coloured sports jumper or a riding waistcoat as well as riding breeches with riding boots or Jodhpur breeches with riding ankle boots. A riding helmet is always considered compulsory. Most riders adhere to this rule even if they are not competing at an international show, because a proper show outfit that you feel comfortable in gives you more self-confidence at the show. If you don't like yourself or the outfit doesn't fit properly, you will definitely feel less comfortable.

2. The right equipment for the horse

The reward for the work: a golden ribbon

The appropriate equipment for the horse should also be purchased, assembled and cleaned in good time and be complete at least at the presentation. Information on what equipment is permitted is again provided by the respective competition regulations. Hier geht’s zu den Regelwerken des IPZV. In order to avoid being disqualified directly at your first competition start, you should definitely take a look at the regulations and critically check your own equipment if necessary. This applies not only to saddle and bit, but also to hoof protection. And a tip for all newcomers to competitions: Make your horse completely ready for the test at least one day before the competition and not only practise hairstyling the long mane with mane rubbers, but also take the time to see how long the procedure actually takes. Time pressure before the test should be avoided at all costs. Whether saddle blanket, sweat blanket or rain blanket, we have the right one for every tournament start.

3. Practice loading

Along with training, loading should also be practised regularly: Many leisure horses rarely ride on the trailer and therefore find it scary. Before your show participation fails because your horse refuses to go onto the trailer, you should rather practise loading a few times beforehand.

A tip: To prevent your horses from becoming tense when travelling with the trailer due to the cold draught, you should always transport them with a fleece sweat blanket or, even better, a woollen blanket.

4. Arrange accommodation in good time

The best time to gain experience in competioning is as a teenager

In addition to the equipment, it is also important to arrange accommodation for horse and rider in good time. While many riders choose to spend the night in a car, camper or tent and need a blanket or sleeping bag and sleeping mat or air mattress, a paddock is set up for the horses. For this, sufficient sticks, enough braid, gate handles and a pasture fencing device are required. Concentrate and mineral feed should also be considered. Vanessa from Herr Pferd advises: "Always have a rain blanket and rubber boots with you, even in high summer. Anyone who has ever camped in a sudden cold and wet spell will appreciate them. And wet wipes. They're just good for everything. For example, to wipe off one's dirty fingers before eating or one's boots just before starting exams. " She also recommends packing a battery bank to charge your mobile phone and also a headlamp so you can find your way to the tent at night, because most paddock areas are not lit. And lastly, a roll of toilet paper in case you run out at the porta-potty.

When setting up the paddock, it makes sense to build it adjacent to the trailer. This gives the horses wind protection and shade. Another possibility would be a pavilion that you set up in the paddock and which offers your horses protection from rain and sun.

And another tip: If there is a sign with your name and telephone number at the paddock, you can always be informed in case of an emergency.

5. Organise water and roughage

In addition to building the paddock, water and roughage must also be organised. Whether the roughage is provided by the organiser is usually stated in the show announcement. If you have a horse with a hay allergy, it makes sense to ask in advance whether you have to bring your own hay or whether it is also available on site. As many competitions take place in summer, permanent access to water is important for the horses. Water points are usually located throughout the paddock area. It is a good idea to bring a water tub from home. To fetch water on the spot, you can bring a simple watering can or a water jerry can. For transporting hay, large garden waste bags are a good idea.

6. Good time management is the be-all and end-all

Anna Kesenheimer and Vidalin

But even though all this organisational stuff makes up a large and not insignificant part of the show, at the end of the day it's all about the test riding. Good time management is the be-all and end-all before the test. You should find out exactly when you will be riding, when the test starts and which group you are in. The starting lists are usually posted at the registration office two hours before the start of the competition. It is also a good idea to inform yourself regularly about possible time delays. In addition, it helps if you discuss with your trainer in advance how long you will need to ride out. You should then plan this time as well as the time to get yourself and your horse ready. It can help if you have a helper who keeps an eye on the clock, helps with the grooming and supports you. This takes away a lot of the time pressure and excitement.

7. Good to know: Nervousness affects everyone

If you think that only very young riders and newcomers to competitions have to deal with nervousness, you are mistaken: many successful sport riders also have to deal with nervousness time and again. Nervousness in test situations is therefore completely normal. With time, you will learn to assess yourself better, which helps to avoid possible blockades in the exam situation. But in the end, each of you has to find out for yourself what really helps against nervousness, because each of us deals with stressful situations differently and therefore each of us has a different trigger for nervousness.

Learn from the best: Brynja and Styrmir Arnason are very experienced tournament riders.

A good way to control your level of nervousness is to pay attention to your breathing. Breathing plays an important role, especially in stressful situations, because it is linked to a person's state of mind. When a person is relaxed, he or she breathes deeply with the abdomen. In stressful situations, on the other hand, breathing is superficial with the chest. In this case, the body is insufficiently supplied with oxygen and tension can arise. The horse will notice this immediately and also react with tension and will be less able to show the required lessons than in a relaxed atmosphere at home. This in turn puts the rider under pressure and a spiral of stress and tension develops. The basic rule is: deep exhalation calms, quick inhalation activates. If you are agitated, you can get back into a better breathing rhythm, for example, by counting beats.

8. Believe in yourself
If you believe in yourself, you will be able to perform at your best at a given moment - in this case, in the exam. This self-confidence grows with positive experiences, which you get through good preparation.

9. Fair play

The grand finale of the tournament: march of all participants and award ceremony

Horse and rider are warmed up, the test can begin. The motto here is: fair play. There are a few rules that you should follow, even if you are new to competitions. For example, you should not ride too close to the horse, you should announce on which side you are overtaking and you should not touch another horse with the whip. If your horse goes through in a test, you are hindering the other riders. Therefore, it is only fair to stop the competition at this point.

10. Enjoy the weekend

As nice as a ribbon is at the end - for most tournament participants it's not about winning, but about the whole experience: the time with friends, the time with the horses and growing beyond oneself. A competition is also a great opportunity to check one's own level of performance and to gain experience - without the idea of competition

Competition Checklist
The following list should help you not to forget anything and take away the stress before and during the show. Not every rider needs everything on this list and sometimes there are additional needs.

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Abschwitzdecken von Sportsfreund Studios
Sportsfreund Studios

The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

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