EQUESTRIAN: A riders perspective on dealing with nerves with Tiffany Foster, Tess Carmichael and Emily Moffit.

Photo – Stefano Grasso


Following my recent post about how I suffer from pre-competition nerves (click here if you missed it), I received lots and lots of messages from people at all levels of ability saying they also felt the same.

So as a follow up, I thought I would ask some other riders in the sport their thoughts on how they have dealt with any similar feelings in their successful careers.


TIFFANY FOSTER – is Canadian and has succsssfully ridden and represented her country on various levels from 5* GP, WEG, Pan Am Games, Olympic Games, Nations Cups even after suffering a broken back in 2008 and being told she would never walk again let alone ride!




TESS CARMICHAEL – is a British amateur rider based at her home stables in Buckinghamshire. She has successfully ridden on the Global Champions Tour for many years alongside other 2* shows and this year added winning the Windsor Amateur GP to her resume.

Photo – Stefano Grasso



EMILY MOFFIT – at 19yrs old she has become a name to remember in the sport by being a successful member of two GCL teams, jumping on the GCT 5*,  winning at 2* GP level consistently and being part of the young riders team this summer at Samorin coming home with team gold.

Photo – GCT


Read on to see what they said……


When do you feel the most pre-competition nerves?

(Before getting on? Warm up? Going in the ring?)

TIFFANY I am lucky because I don’t often get very nervous. The one event I do get nervous for is a Nations Cup. Knowing that I am representing my country and that my team is depending on me makes me wake up with butterflies in my stomach. I think I feel it the most in the morning of a big competition. Once I get going with my day I start to feel better. For me I find that feeling nervous actually helps me focus and usually impacts my performance in a positive way. It helps me really stay in the moment. Again, I’m lucky for that!

TESS I feel the most nervous in the lead up to the class on the day. I’m particularly bad if I have to wait around a long time, for example if my class is at the end of the day or I’m at the end of the class (silly I know as that’s normally the ideal draw!!) I don’t feel particularly nervous when I’m walking the course. In some ways that’s a relief because I think what worries me the most is the unknown, so once I’ve walked,  I know the course, I can make a plan which makes me feel more confident. I then would start to feel nervous again before I get on and start to warm up. Usually when I’m on the horse I feel calmer again, I think working and being with my horses distracts me from the nervousness.

Can you remember a time that the nerves have effected your performance negatively?

TESS My nerves can make me severely doubt myself and my abilities, which is not helpful in a sport when we have to make so many decisions quickly – there is no time to second guess ourselves. I’ve had mental blocks in the past with certain heights of classes or situations where I would ride so so badly because I didn’t trust myself and this in turn caused a vicious cycle of bad performances which is difficult to break.

EMILY – I don’t really feel nerves, it’s more of an anxious feeling to win or ride the best I can. The only time nerves have affected me on course was for a nations cup. I let it get to my head and it completely changed the way I rode. I learned my lesson doing that! I’m very competitive and hate losing! So naturally I want to always do the best I can and hopefully win. I can only remember one or two times I felt real nerves and that was for a team events. Obviously a team event puts on more pressure than just riding at a normal show.

Do you have a pre-round routine to stay focused?
TIFFANY As far as a pre-round routine, I like to walk the course twice. The first time to figure out the tracks and the striding of the lines and then again taking my time and thinking about exactly how I’m going to execute my plan. Then before I get on I try to find a quiet space and visualize the entire round.

TESS – I don’t have a routine as such, I have things that I work on to keep myself focused. I try very hard not to let negative thoughts come into my head e.g. the course is big, too technical etc.I get a lot of confidence from walking the course, so I make sure that I have a strong plan and I know how many strides are where and how to ride each fence. But when it comes down to it things don’t always go to plan so that is subject to change!

EMILY – I tend to listen to music before I get on for multiple reasons, it gets me in the zone to ride well, it helps me focus and it also shows people that I’m getting ready to ride and don’t want to talk! I have a hard time talking to people right before I ride because I like to focus on one thing only and that’s riding as good as possible!

What things work for you to calm any nerves at big events?
TIFFANY – This sounds crazy but if I am nervous at a show and I’m between rounds or something I like to take my mind off the pressure of what I’m doing and I play solitaire on my phone! I know this sounds strange but I find it really relaxes me and let’s my mind focus on something else for a few brief moments. I find it really helps!
If I can give one bit of advice to people who get nervous it would be this: do your homework. Get to the show and feel like you have done everything you needed to do to arrive feeling prepared and under faced. Think back on all the lessons you have had and all the time you have spent with your horse and remember that you are meant to be there! You are ready and you can do it. Go in confident and knowing that you belong!
TESS – My main thing is I worry about everything. So the whole event can seem very daunting as a whole. I work on concentrating on taking everything at step at a time.

Also not letting what other people are doing to affect myself and my plan. I have certain people’s opinions who I listen to and try not to listen to what other people say about the course or what they are going to do.


EMILY – The rare times I do feel nerves or anxious to win, the only things that really help are taking deep breaths, telling myself to just ride like I know how I can, and also my trainer, Ben Maher, makes a point to tell me go ride and have fun every time before I go in the ring! All of these things help me a lot. It’s important to remember every round is just like all the others you’ve ridden. If you tell yourself that there’s absolutely no reason to be nervous!


HUGE THANK YOU to Tiffany, Tess and Emily for contributing their experiences, tips and feelings to this blog post.

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