ATTITUDE is everything
It's all about being prepared. When I plan my goals for the season, I set a program in motion that will hopefully prepare not only my horses to compete at a high level of competition but also prepare me to be at the right point at the right time to go out and bring home the titles.
I have trained and shown a lot of horses over the years and I have looked forward to showing, to see how all the hard work would come together in that one moment in front of the judge. The horse was in top condition, we had done everything we could at home to prepare, we were ready.
Your mental attitude can make or break your success in the arena. When we aren't quite ready, it's hard to have the confidence and put everything together. When you arrive at the show grounds and things don't fall together the way we planned, our focus shifts and we start looking at the situations from a negative aspect. You ask yourself, am I ready, is my horse where I want him to be, are we really ready to compete at this level? There are some things you can do prior to arriving at the show that will improve your performance even when you are lacking confidence in yourself or the horse your' re presenting. The most important is to look the part and act as if you and your horse have been doing this as a team for years, even if it's the first show of the season for you both. When your confidence is in short supply, focus on those things you can control. There is nothing you can do about the footing in the arena, the terrible gate position for a smooth entry, where you are stalled for the show, a judge that doesn't like your style of horse. It is a waste of time to dwell on things you can't control. It will only create more anxiety in you and can be transferred to your horse. What you can do is focus on the things that are under your control, your communication with your grooms and clients, your dedication to having everything prepared; halters chosen for each horse, carts prepped, harness hung in order of go.
When you put your energies in to things you can control your stress level comes down, your mind settles and you are able to focus on the horse, the performance and the outcome you expect. You go in the arena expecting the best and doing your best. We want to remember on any given day each of us can have a great day or a really bad day in the show arena. We must keep the "what ifs" out of our mind. Go in to win.
Keep the anxiety and stress to a minimum. When we are anxious and nervous our posture and body language changes, we become tight and more reactive. Horses feel the tension, they are flight animals and they feed off our reactions. When I am preparing to enter the arena, wether for halter or performance, I make a conscious effort to physically and mentally relax all the way through my fingertips. I hand my halter horse off to my groom while I walk around, just relaxing my body and mind, allowing my horse to also relax. Just prior to walking in the in-gate we make final adjustments and go through the gate.
The most important thing is to take the time to relax prior to taking the reins or the lead. If you need to take a moment, find a friend or fellow exhibitor to hold your horse. Practice some simple relation techniques, deep breaths, relaxing shoulders, physically loosen arms, hands and legs.
When you enter the show arena act as though you have been doing this for years. How you present yourself reflects and is mirrored by your horse. If you are confident so is your horse. If you are anxious or lack confidence, so will your horse. I enter the arena knowing I have done my homework. Conditioned and trained my horse, groomed him and prepared him to be the best he can be. When we are presented with the judge's placing, I make sure to accept, graciously his or her decision, making sure that I do not take this decision personally. I look around at the other horses in the class realizing that all the horses and handlers had an equal chance to impress the judge. Hopefully my horse and I made the best impression. When I exit the arena, I hand my horse off to the groom and allow, not only myself to relax, but also to ensure that my horse is equally relaxed and allowed to return to his stall to rest. I also make sure I congratulate those around me. This not only shows good sportsmanship, it also shows your professionalism and sets an example for others, both young and old.
Remeber that no matter how the judges placed the class, everyone deserves respect and admiration for the hard work and dedication in preparing and presenting their horse.
Above all else HAVE FUN ......