What not to do when competing at the WEF

By Annette Paterakis

With hundreds of riders and thousands of horses competing together for over 3 months, the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida is an amazing opportunity to compete against the best riders in the country and the world. However, it can be quite daunting to be surrounded by the best of the best, and to constantly be reminded of how many other great riders and horses are out there. Here are a few reminders to stay in control of your mental game and to enjoy your time at this beautiful event:

1. Don’t forget your course plan

Competing at a show like the WEF can already add some unwanted pressure. This anxiety can kick in the moment you enter the arena to walk your course. As you might have experienced before, this can result in you forgetting your course half way through your round. This happens because the anxiety prevents your brain from functioning properly. The part of your brain that usually memorizes new information is currently occupied with your anxiety. Therefore it is very important to find ways to relax your muscles and breathe deeply as this will send out a signal to your brain that all is well again. Practice breathing and relaxation exercises at home once a day. This is a great way not only to relax your body and mind, but also to train your focus. You can find two guided breathing exercises here: https://annettepaterakis.com/tools/

2. Don’t lose hope

Competing against 100 or more great riders in your class can be quite humbling and might cause you to lose hope before you have even started. You might wonder how on earth you will have a chance to be placed or qualified. However, recognize that by focusing on the end result, you automatically have one eye on the future and only one eye focused on the process. Instead of competing against others, compete against yourself and fully commit to your own goals and journey.


“Instead of competing against others, compete against yourself and fully commit to your own goals and journey.”


3. Don’t get frustrated

When things don’t go as planned we can get frustrated quickly, especially when we feel we don’t have any control over the problem or when you made a mistake that you can’t change anymore. Next time this happens, train yourself to take back control. When you feel you are getting frustrated, ask yourself “is there one thing I can do right now that will get me closer to a solution?” Instead of going over that ‘bad’ round a million times, learn from it, take action and move on.

4. Don’t get distracted

Being at a busy show with lots of people you know can make it challenging to stay focused and to make your own plan. Therefore it might be helpful to create some space and time for yourself before your class. Take your time to prepare yourself and get into the right mindset before you get on your horse. Creating an easy and clear routine will help to get into the right frame of mind before every class regardless of the circumstances.

5. Don’t forget why you are there

You have worked hard to prepare yourself and your horses to compete at this beautiful event, so now you want to see results. But ask yourself this: “is my riding career only about winning and results?” Imagine if you could win every class, all the time, without much effort, would you still enjoy competing 6 months later? Perhaps not, perhaps your journey is more about getting out of your comfort zone, learning and growing into a better rider each day. So stay focused on improvement rather than winning and watch how the results will follow naturally.

Picture credit: Noelle Floyd