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Five Ways to Fight Mental Fatigue at Horse Shows

We are heading into championship season; this is the time when the select few separate themselves from the masses to claim their titles as being the best in the world at their chosen event.

Most of these championship classes will have a prelim and a final, or a pattern followed by rail work. This requires riders to stay on top of their game from the first minute they walk into the arena down to the last second before placings.

Below are some ways to reduce mental fatigue at long shows to help you stay sharp.

Prepare for as much as possible beforehand

Preparation is one of the easiest ways to walk into the arena with confidence and without any worries slowing down your mental processes. Practice and know that you can execute any maneuver that could be asked of you in your class. If you are given your patterns before the show, memorize them, so that is one fewer thing you have to worry about while at the show.

Being prepared for the show arena isn’t the only way we need to adapt to prevent mental fatigue. Have a detailed list of all work (or schoolwork) that needs to be accomplished while you are away. Have a list of all things that need to be packed in your horse trailer or suitcase, so you don’t have to make a mad dash for supplies in the middle of the show. By taking care of the little things before you leave, you will be able to make better decisions on the bigger things while at the show.


Whether you just started showing or are a seasoned veteran, having processes in place can help streamline your days and reduce the amount of mental fatigue you incur. Examples of these processes can be how you start your mornings; get to the showgrounds, longe your horse for twenty minutes, rinse your horse’s legs, while they dry, you do your hair, then you paint his hooves black, while that dries, you grease his face. The fewer decisions you must make will save your brainpower for making the right decisions while in the show pen.

While in the show pen, you can rely on the processes that you created at home. Jim Kwik, CEO of Kwik Learning, states, “First, you create your habits, and then your habits create you.”

The habits that you have formed with your horse at home will be the way that you express yourself when the pressure of showing is put on you. Enforce great habits at home to ensure greatness in the show pen.

Have a team you believe in

Horse shows are far from an individual event. Your team begins with you and your horse and then reaches out to your trainers, grooms, parents, significant others, and friends. Take time to create a team that you can trust. This team will come in handy when the stress of a horse show hits and you realize you only have thirty minutes to get ready when it usually takes you forty-five. A great team will run like a well-oiled machine; there will be no friction because each part is doing the job that it is supposed to be doing.

If you don’t have trust in your team, this will cause added stress that will nag at you, causing unneeded friction and mental fatigue. Take note of your team to make sure that each part of the machine knows what it should be doing and knows exactly how to do it.

Opportunity stress

There are so many ways that you can fill your day up at a horse show, most of the time we end up spending our time merely waiting. Opportunity stress can sneak up on you during these moments and drain your mental energy. “Should I go practice now?” “Do I have time to grab a bite to eat with my friends?” “Do I have time to run by the vendors quick?”

Questions like these can run through your head on repeat if you do not have a plan in place. “No” is the most powerful word when preventing mental fatigue. Don’t be afraid to have a list of things that you won’t do until the show day is finished. This will prevent you from wondering if you should be doing something.

Don’t be failure adverse

Wanting to win is normal, that is why many of us show horses. However, the reality is that there can only be one winner in each event at each show. Your pattern may not go as planned, or your horse may decide he would rather eat the rose bush at the gate rather than politely ignore it.

By finding ways to embrace the opportunity for things to go wrong, you end up allowing yourself the chance for things to go right. The only way to have a shot at success is to also have a shot at failure. You have to give it your all and not mentally ruminate on the outcome other than to use it as a building block for the next class.

Any seasoned showman is going have bad things happen, it’s what you do with that moment that determines how the rest of the show will go for you.

About the Author – Lauren Stanley has been involved with horses in various ways her entire life. She currently competes in the Amateur All Around events on her beloved partner, Extremely Good Stuff. When Lauren isn’t riding, she spends her free time cooking up new creations to share with friends and family.