Over the years I’ve really been to a lot of competitions with my little superstars. But even though some of them like Cassidy and Bohemian have been out in the arena many times, they still get a bit nervous sometimes. There are lots of reasons for this and some of the things are completely out of my control, but I can still do a lot to help my horses feel a bit more comfortable. At my last Club Night I talked a bit about how arenas are super different, especially in terms of sounds etc. so my example was that in Herning, the sound is great and it doesn’t usually startle my horses, but in Aachen for example, the sound kind of gets thrown up in the air and then crashes down while you’re riding, which is a bit of a challenge. No matter how many times Cassidy has been there he’s still a bit uncomfortable but I’ve learned a few different tricks to help him.
So for Cassidy I learned that it was better for him to walk into the arena instead of doing a big trot or canter. So we’ve started walking like 5 min before I walk into the arena. This means just walking nice and easy and trying to bring him down. And then when it’s time for us to enter the arena, I try to halt maybe 20-30 m before going in, so that he just gets a bit of time to breathe and relax before starting our test. Bohemian is a bit different, because instead of internalising the tension, he kind of just “jumps away” and gets a bit spooked, so for him that meant I have to prepare him by keeping him focused so with him I need to do a lot of tempo-changes.
Secondly we’ve tested out some different products, to see if there was anything that could help them to just be a little less tense and allow them to calm down. So now we use the instant NAF Magic before a competition, just to help them relax a bit more. I actually use Magic at home as well, especially for younger horses like Bohemian who can have A LOT of energy. When I first started training him we really needed to spend some time trying to figure out what we could do to make him calm down a bit, so that he could focus on the training.
So 1) figure out what you have to do before entering the arena (and of course also spend time training in the arena, so the horse gets used to it). This can be different for your horse, but for Cassidy that means walking into the arena and for Bohemian it’s about adding some tempo-changes on the way in so that he is focused. And then 2) is to find some supplements that can help to just take that edge off. NAF Magic and the feed I use really works for my horses, so I definitely recommend this. But there are lots of different products out there, and what works for one horse might not work for someone else, so try some things out.