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Competition

Breanne from Illinois, writes:

Dear Sharon,

My horse Montana makes money when I run one day, and the next time I run her, she acts like she doesn't know what to do. Her performance seems to be affected by the horses I warm up with. She gets insecure and frightened around horses that are hot and out of control. How does this affect her performance?

Dear Breanne,

Your warm-up is one of the most critical parts of competition. Not only do we need to warm up our horse’s bodies to avoid injury under the stress of competition, but also we need to warm up their minds in order to produce peak performance.

I have a feeling this does not all root from the kind of horses you are around before competition, although this is a big factor in completing the warm-up process. Make sure you are not feeding your horse “too hot” during the week prior to competition. I would also consider saddling your horse more during the week to help her stay mentally focused, not only in competition, but also in training and conditioning during the week.

When you arrive at a competition, try to introduce your horse to the arena before you compete. This will help take the “spooks” out of competition and enable you to get a game plan. Your warm-up should consist of stretching exercises, lengthening and shortening exercises, and loping exercises. What you do before your run will help prepare you for your competition. You need to get your horses mind and body prepared. This process can take up to, and over one hour. In fact, the last horse I took to the NFR sometimes warranted a four-hour warm-up to quiet his mind and to get him focusing in on me. I also recommend you choose to warm up around calmer horses and more focused riders. Terry Orlick’s book, In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win In Sport and Life Through Mental Training can help you with this process.

Remember to “Plan the Run and Run the Plan.”

Best results,

Sharon