When it comes to locking up your nerves in the Big Eqs, it helps to have some other classes to put them in perspective. For 17-year-old Mckayla Langmeier, those “practice” rounds are occasionally 1.50-meter grands prix at venues such as Spruce Meadows in Alberta, Canada, where, during the last two years, she’s taken home CSI5* wins on mounts Classic Care and Iliano Van D’Abeledreef, respectively.

With equitation season just around the corner, it’s nearly time for Langmeier—whose mother, Linda Langmeier, is head trainer at Kelianda Farms in East Grandby, CT—to switch hats, and she’ll get plenty of practice this week at the American Gold Cup at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York, a part of her schedule that she looks forward to each year.

“[The Gold Cup] is so close to home for us and the facility here is great. The town [of North Salem] is super, and we have family close by, so there are a lot of things about it we love,” she says.

“I have three jumpers here. I have [Whistler] that I’m doing in the Low [Juniors]—he’s kind of an older horse. I have two jumpers in the High [Junior classes]; one is a newer partnership [Iliano Van D’Abeledreef], I got him toward the middle of Florida. The other one, Durosa W, I’ve had her for about three years now,” says Langmeier. “My goals for the week with them are just to be consistent in the upper placings of the Junior divisions.

“I actually have my equitation horses here prepping because they haven’t shown all summer. We were at Spruce and then we were in Europe for three weeks, so they’ve just kind of been laying low,” she explains, adding that transitioning from ‘jumper mode’ back to the formality and precision of the equitation ring takes some practice.

“I think in the equitations, you’re riding off a looser canter, and definitely, in the jumpers, you’re adding up a little bit. So it takes a few lessons, I feel, [for me] to get back in the groove with equitation,” Langmeier explains, adding that she plans to compete at The Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals next month (October 3-7).

“I think having an equitation background definitely helps with your position and your track in the jumper ring. [The equitations] kind of get you familiar with the track at a lower height, so being able to do it as close to perfection as you can, when you do move up to the bigger rings, it’s familiar,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean that the nerves are any less than the jumper ring, no matter how big (or small) the jumps may be. “I feel like everybody has nerves going into the equitation, but how you deal with them definitely determines the outcome,” says Mckayla. “So definitely, I always [tell myself to have] confidence and discipline when I’m going in.”

That, and sticking to a few words of wisdom Linda Langmeier passed on to her years ago, which— thankfully—come in handy no matter which arena you happen to be competing in. “When I was walking into the ring, my mother would always tell me, ‘Conquer the course,'” Mckayla says.

Now in its 47th year, the American Gold Cup features five days of world-class equestrian competition, including the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping New York for the American Gold Cup on Sunday, September 17. Live daily coverage is available on the event’s website and will be broadcast on NBC Sports on Friday, September 22 at 11 p.m. EST.