The key to controlling nerves is to be organized and well prepared. Here are some tips on how to do that.
1) Read the prize list carefully so you don’t have any surprises, and you know the kind of classes that are being offered.
2) Make a plan the night before the show for when and how you will prepare or work your horse before the class. You should plan to be done at least one hour before the class, if possible.
3) Make sure your equipment is organized the night before (i.e.: boots polished, correct spurs, crop, etc.). You don’t need added stress over searching for your spurs just before you ride.
4) Make sure your horse’s equipment is ready to go the night before (i.e.: proper bit on the bridle, martingale with the bridle, boots, etc.)
5) Have a plan of when you should get on (once you know the order of go) and when your horse should be at the ring.
6) Always plan to be a little early in case there are scratches, or they are running ahead of schedule.
7) Dissect the course into sections. Take these sections individually and plan how to ride them. You have probably (or should have already) practiced each section in a lesson or schooling session. The course will be less daunting if you think of it in sections to be put together rather than being overwhelmed by the entire course.
8) Go in the ring with the attitude that you are going to show off how well you can do it, not thinking about what might go wrong.
9) Once you are in the ring, concentrate on executing your plan and not so much on all the things you have worked on in lessons. Those need to be practiced enough at home that they become habit, not something that clogs your brain.
10) Have fun! That’s why you do it.