Don’t let this ruin your experience in the show ring.
I didn’t grow up showing much. As one of four kids in a single parent household, going to horse shows was extremely low on the priority list and just not financially viable.
When you’re a kid showing, things are very different then when you enter the world of being an Adult Amateur. You roll up to the show as a child, braids, and bows, with all the hope and excitement in the world. You get to do your favorite thing: ride your horse. There isn’t this big dramatic saga in your head about all the things that can go wrong. You aren’t worried about all the eyes looking at you or the nerves of “what if I fall off and can’t go to work on Monday.” These thoughts just don’t exist in the innocent mind of a horse show kid.
The case of showing as an Adult Amateur is quite a different picture though…
Our ego is fully developed and desperate to protect itself by the time we become Adult Amateurs and it is desperate to ruin horse showing for us.
What if I make a complete fool of myself?
What if I get seriously injured and can’t go to work or take care of my family?
Is this REALLY what I need to be spending my money on?
What if my old trainer is there and is judging me?
What if I can’t remember the course?
… Just a few of the nagging thoughts that ramble through the brain of an AA when it comes to the world of showing.
So how do we deal with this? How do we overcome our ego who is always trying to ruin all of the light-hearted fun we try to have? How do we make horse showing actually fun, enjoyable, and exciting and not something that has us grabbing the Imodium and running to the closest show ground porta potty?
Here are the top 3 ways I keep my ego in check and actually enjoy horse shows as an Adult Amateur:
- I remind myself that everyone else is as focused on themselves as I am on myself. We tend to come up with this scenario in our mind that every single person at the horse show is there just to watch us fail. It’s comical actually when you think about how our minds are so wrapped up in our own insecurities that we don’t notice what’s going on around us, but we expect nobody else to be doing the exact same thing we are. Can I be honest? Just get over yourself. Nobody is there to watch you fail. They’re too busy trying to remember their course to even notice you’re in the warmup ring with them.
- I overprepare. If I’m going to a show to jump a 2’6” course, then at home, I’m jumping closer to 3’. When I get to the show, I want what I’m doing to feel easy compared to what I’ve been doing at home. It makes stepping into the ring easier when the jumps look way smaller then the ones we’ve been jumping at home. Don’t stretch yourself or your horse. It’s always better to go into a show feeling confident about the task at hand. Push yourself past your comfort zone at home and let shows be easy compared to the work you’re doing on a regular basis in your own arena.
- I take a deep breath and visualize my safe landing after my ride. Call me crazy, but before almost every ride (showing or not), I spend a few minutes with my eyes closed, visualizing my feet landing on the ground and giving my mare a big pat at the end of a ride. I never try and visualize how the entire ride will go, just my feet safely landing on the ground after our ride. Why? When I practice this visualization, my biggest fear goes away: the fear of falling and getting hurt. When I imagine my feet landing safely on the ground, it means no matter how hard or ugly the ride may have been, I landed safely on the ground at the end. There are many different techniques for visualizing, but I’ve found this one to be the most effective for calming my own nerves. I urge you to spend a few minutes before every ride working on this at home so when you get to a show, it’s second nature!
Essentially, horse showing for me is about testing my partnership with my mare and seeing how we’ve grown as a team. I am not there for ribbons. I am not there to impress the other competitors or even the judge, to be honest.
I am there to impress my horse with my ability to control my emotions, even in a situation outside of our normal arena walls.
I am there to spend time with great friends and sit in the barn aisle waiting to warm up. It’s about the late night checks and the early mornings of hand walking.
It’s about getting to the end of my life and knowing I soaked up every experience that I possibly could, without letting the fear of failure or judgment hold me back.
What are some techniques you use to actually enjoy the horse show and not let it be as stressful as your 9-5?