Even the world’s elite riders aren’t immune to competition nerves. Martha Terry discovers how they channel their jitters into a winning performance
Nerves happen to the best of us. When Emily Philp was contesting her first Burghley, in 2019, she passed Pippa Funnell’s lorry en route to the cross-country. Bear in mind Pippa has a dozen Olympic, world and European medals, six five-star trophies and 30 five-star starts under her belt. Pippa leaned out of her lorry window to wish Emily good luck and check she was OK.
“I said, ‘No, I feel dreadful,’” Emily says. “And Pippa laughed, and said, ‘Trust me, it gets worse, not better.’”
Pippa went on to win, proving that nerves are no barrier to success. But how familiar her angst is to so many riders, whether we’re at British novice or Badminton.
On online equestrian forums, discussions about how to cope with competition nerves abound. Instant solutions such as gin, Rescue Remedy and Human Kalm Cookies (a human version of the equine ones) are suggested, alongside hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming and performance psychology.
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