Jan 23, 2024

Be Your Best in the 2024 Show Season with Best Practices Discussed in the Adult Rider Open Forum at Convention

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Did you know that in 2023 there were 2,535 members of the USEA Adult Rider Program? The USEA Adult Rider Program is for all adults, amateur or professional, 22 years and older. The program’s goal is to increase adult rider participation in eventing as both riders and volunteers. It aims to do so by including adults across all skill and experience levels in a supportive program that promotes education, volunteerism, friendly competition, recognition, and just plain fun.

At the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, held Dec. 7-10 in St. Louis, Missouri, Amy Winnen, co-chair of the Adult Rider Coordinator Committee and Area I adult rider coordinator led the Adult Rider Open Forum which featured a new format. Winnen was joined by three panelists: high-performance coach and psychologist Natalie Hummel, and five-star event riders Hannah Sue Hollberg and Sharon White.

The panelists shared their own practices and approaches to help attendees adopt new mindsets and practices that would help them be the best that they can be at a competition from a mental and physical perspective.

Check out some of the top takeaways that evolved from this open forum below:

On Mental Strategies

The conversation kicked off strong with talks about mental health and how it can impact your riding. Hummel had a lot to share on this topic, which both Hollberg and White agreed with.

One thing the trio noted was that riders need to develop a mental program that accompanies their physical preparation for competition. This allows for better management of nerves at a show.

In addition, riders should acknowledge their fears and emotions and work through them rather than avoid them. This helps enhance performance.

“Ask yourself, ‘What emotion am I avoiding?’ ” said Hummel. “Is it fear? Perfectionism? Feel it, acknowledge it, and converse with it.”

One big takeaway was that riders need to understand the art of being kind to themselves.

“Being tough on yourself will transfer that energy to your horse,” she continued. “Be kind to yourself. Communicate with yourself like you do with your horse. Be accepting, complimentary, and supportive.”

It is also important to have a designated person in your group who can help support your mental and emotional journey– not just your riding skills. This person can be your coach, a friend, a family member, or anyone who supports your mental well-being as much as your riding abilities.

One thing Hollberg and Hummel both touched on was the concept of writing down what works for you. The mindset behind this practice is being able to reflect on things when times get tough.

And lastly, be willing to learn and absorb information. Don’t just try to prove yourself out there each ride. Be open to the journey and face your fears and emotions along the way.

On Preparations

While we are all used to preparing for our dressage test before a competition, it's also imperative that you plan for your warm up before you arrive at the show. Know what you want to accomplish in your warm up and focus on your plan. Doing so can help keep the frenzy of the warmup arena from negatively impacting your nerves.

One of the biggest keys to success at a show is getting the ride time in at home.

“You can’t expect your horse to give you his best extended trot in the show ring if you have never gotten it at home,” said White.

Tying into the mental preparations before a show, White noted that it was important to create mental stability and toughness in addition to physical fitness before making your way down the centerline.

Looking Ahead

Reminders for the 2024 season –

The Letter of Intent and Membership Deadline for the 2024 Adult Team Championships (ATC) is Aug. 1. As always, the ATC will take place during the 2024 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feed on Aug. 27-Sept. 1, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Winnen encouraged all adult riders, amateur and professional, to reach out to their Area Coordinator regarding program offerings in their area. Most areas coordinate clinics and educational opportunities such as Adult Rider Camps and Adult Team Challenges throughout the year.

Are you 22 years or older and want to join your Area's Adult Rider's program? Sign up at the same time you renew your USEA membership, any time through your USEA member services portal, or by filling out this form.

About the USEA Adult Rider Program

The USEA Adult Rider Program is open to all adults, professional or amateur, ages 22 years and older. The program aims to unite adults across all skill and experience levels in a supportive program that promotes education, communication, recognition, and fun! The goal of the Adult Rider program is to continue to encourage participation in the sport of eventing beyond one’s junior years by providing educational programs, support to Area Adult Rider programs, funding opportunities, and the Adult Team Championships (ATC) at the USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Nutrena Feeds. Click here to learn more about the Adult Rider Program.

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