Stress is part of life, and seems increasing so in 21st century living.

Life has ‘ups and downs’ and being around horses has further ‘ups and downs’ too. We hear the words – stress, stressed out, stressful, stressy – almost daily.

Yet, what does it mean exactly? 


Some claim they thrive on stress yet, for others, it’s a very different experience. Does everyone get stressed? Is someone’s stress, anothers pressure?  How is it experienced?

Can you relate to any of these examples: 

  • Your show jumping’s not going well.
  • You’re struggling to pinpoint why. Finding ways and ideas to return to form is becoming stressful.
  • Stepping up to a new dressage test level is challenging.
  • Are you experiencing stress or pressure about learning new movements? And, what to do about it?
  • You started riding lessons as you’re keen to ride for pleasure but there’s more to it than you thought!
  • You start feeling downhearted, start comparing yourself to others and feel stressed you’re ‘not good enough’.
  • You’re a professional event rider with seven horses at one event, in different classes, riding for four very different owners.
  • Timings are tight requiring precision, swift changeovers – boots, tack, studs etc. A good, although pressurised day’s work for you, yet stressful and overwhelming for another rider.
  • Your horse slipped over at a team vaulting competition.
  • You’re stressed at your next event that it might happen again, and you will let the team down.
  • Stressful stuff is happening in your personal life.
  • It starts affecting you, your riding, your horse and your performance enjoyment
  • You’re stressing over you and your pony being called nasty names.
  • Spiteful criticism you’re getting on social media is stressing you out and you are feeling bullied.

Stress can affect the mind and body in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently.

Sometimes we may be unaware, or feel mentally OK, but our bodies tell us different. Plus, we can all have ‘one of those days’, although pay attention if they continue or become the norm.


Stress can affect the mind and body in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently. 

Check out these FAQ’s to discover more:  


Yes there is. Here are three top tips for stress prevention, avoidance, reduction, and management.

Raise your self-awareness 

Pay attention to your indicators as trigger(s) for action:

  • How do you know you’re stressed; how do you experience it?
  • What are your indicators?
  • What causes your stress? Competing, a particular horse, owner, person, movement, fence type/configuration, hacking, or certain situations? Family, friend, social, work related? Social media?

Think about it differently 

Stress can be your friend! – it’s a trigger, a warning, telling you to do something.

Stress isn’t always negative. A certain level of pressure can help us prepare for actions and challenges, and ‘good’ stress can drive us to succeed, to do something different, to make changes.

Accept it’s part of life. Everyone experiences [bad] stress from time to time. Just because you might not ‘see’ it or others don’t appear to ‘show’ it, doesn’t mean they don’t experience it!

Manage it differently

This has happened, what can I do about it’ approach.

  • Is a conversation needed?
  • Would I like help?
  • What changes/actions can you take?  

Helen is an event rider. She finds dressage very stressful and forgets her test. These are her five top tips:

1. Identify and recognise your indicators – Mine are butterflies in tummy, raised heart rate, shallow breathing, feeling ‘up tight’.

2. Prepare well in advance – to avoid getting stressed in first place. Work out your preparation plan, what works for you. Mine’s being on my own for about 30 mins, being present and doing a breathing exercise. I’m in the right frame of mind then to get on board.  I’ve worked out over time what warm up time each horse needs too.

3. Control the things you can – i.e yourself, your behaviour, reactions, thoughts, preparations etc etc rather than trying to control the things you can’t.

4. Focus on what you can do, what you can change. I ride every stride, and once inside the boards I’m in my bubble. 

5. Breathe using the 4-4-4 technique. Breathe in to slow count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4.

Josh got the ride on a prestigious dressage horse. He thought this would be easy as the horse had lots of talent and was quite straight forward. He soon started feeling stressed and lost his confidence because he didn’t realise competing with the additional responsibility would be so challenging.  
These are his five top tips:

1. Recognise your triggers – In my case, I felt out of my depth, anxious, and worried about letting the owner down. I didn’t sleep.

2. Manage your pressures – Make some changes. In my case, I found confidence matters section on Riders Minds. I took action, got some additional training, found a mentor and my stress levels started going down.

3. Control and choice – Put yourself back in control; decide what you need to do. Avoid getting stuck. 

4. Focus on what you can do, what you can change. I shifted from losing confidence to re-gaining it.     

5. ‘Take 5’. Have ‘me-time’ moments during the day. Mine’s a cup of tea!