Ok different approach here. I will mention what happened my first Intermediate. (I know... not the same... but it is)
I was scared out of my gourd. I had schooled tons, both horse and I are well prepared yadda yadda. As we all know when the vest, pinny and watch are on and you're in the warm up, lots of nerves can be overwhelming. I looked over in the warmup and saw Bruce D. Now I had purchased a nice horse from him, I had done clinics with him, we're event-friendly. I walked up and flat said "Bruce I am scared... this is my first Int. Please give me some good advice."
He nodded and did not laugh at my pithiness. He smiled and said "Ok Emily. Keep one leg on each side of the horse."
It is that simple. When you're ready at the heart of the ride all you have to do is keep one leg on each side of the horse. Sure there are 5 million things whirring in your head at any one moment, heels down, eyes up, hands low, not too fast, bend in the turns, remember not to yank his teeth and so on.
But I have found great success by accepting my imperfections, nerves and rider errors and sticking to don't get lost, and keep one leg on each side.
Bottom line, we are all nervous in some way. Be it our first event, a new level, a new horse, a new trainer watching us at a show for the first time, a course you've had bad luck at... and it goes on. Do not make yourself feel like an outsider for emotions that in fact make you a true eventer. Nerves are a vital piece of the pie and you'll know when you are ready to move up when you feel less or no nerves at the level you have been competing at.
I know BN isn't that big to me, but I get it is to you. ENJOY that feeling of seeing a "big" BN table. Don't negate it. Because when you soar over it, your pride in yourself will blossom. You're only a new BN rider for a bit. And then it's old hat. Enjoy this time and let yourself believe that you can do it, even if you have to rally your heart to kick for a long spot to the biggest fence on course. (Note, do not do this at INT without a very nice horse!!! :-)
We want a full report. We want pics and most of all we want for you to be grinning afterwards with all the new things you learned about your horse and yourself.
We've all been there.
You really brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for those thoughts. In two weeks I start the season where I ended last year. That was my first full BN show, two weeks from now at the same place I do it again. What you said really inspires. Thank you.
I also appreciate you understanding our feelings even though you're way up there in experience. That meant a lot.
I second all the suggestions here. Walk a bigger course first. Volunteer to fence judge - watch what 'looks right' is successful and makes it look easy and what rides look wrong! and see how many rides go with no problems. I can't stress this enough for LL competitors. And like the first time you 'see' Rolex! Those fences look huge, then after a long Saturday of hiking around and seeing horse after horse go flying over them they look a little better. Until the day is over and you can walk up to them haha.
And I agree - don't over think it. Find your rhythm and don't overthink jumping the fences. All the clinicians make riders count now. It makes you breathe too! and focus on the rhythm vs the fence. Practice circling to set balance and rhythm before your fences at home and then count striding to the jump - out loud! If you put your focus to work your nerves will be busy!
About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation.
-- Tom Wilson, actor & comedian
I have great news. My pony and I completed our first BN this past weekend. I took in all of your advice and mainly focused on having FUN. We got down to the event on Saturday and my horse was in good spirits and happy to find his accomodations pleasing to him while me and my entourage walked the XC and Stadium Courses. I had been practicing some Novice Height at home so really the jumps didn't seem all that big to me. The Stadium was set for Training so that was great to see the jumps so large and knowing they would come down two levels by the time I was jumping around.
Ironically, after all the worry about the jumping, the dressage ended up being the most difficult. It was raining, and my pony took one look at the ponchos and basically had a firecracker up his rear the entire time. After watching the video, it actually improved our trot work, but he was running through my aids in preparation for the canter departs so we blew both canter leads initially. However, the trot and walk work was so good, we were still in first after dressage! I seriously could not believe it.
Next was on to XC. There was one large hanging log at max height that was wigging me out a little, but once we got on course and he got into his rolling canter, I knew it was going to be fine. He is such a star on XC it's ridiculous. He just hopped over everything like it was no big deal and we had a blast. I did some trotting b/c they had a slow optimum time on the course and I didn't want to get any time penalties. So I mixed in some trot here and there and we came through with no penalties!
Stadium was immediately after XC, so I was a little concerned about his stamina and carefulness going in, but once again, he proved to be a rock star and just hopped over everything like no. big. deal. We had one very slight bobble with a jump under a tree so the lighting was a little funny to him but he jumped it anyway.
We ended up in 1st place on our dressage score of 36. I could not be prouder of my boy, and I can't believe I was so worried about the move up. I have another schooling BN scheduled this fall. Not sure what's next after that... maybe onto our first recognized??
Here are the videos from the day. Thanks again so much for all your kind words of encouragement and shared experiences. That is why I love this sport so much.