It’s official, my 2015 winter circuit show season has come to an end and I am back in the less than balmy temperatures of the great white North. It feels surreal to now be writing this article in review of my experience rather than living it as I was only a few short weeks ago. I had high hopes for my time at HITS Post Time Farm and it absolutely lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I learned more than I could have thought possible and both my skills and my mental game improved exponentially. Not every class was flawless but every class left me leaving the ring having learned something new that would translate to my next ride. With that bit of nostalgia, I’ve decided to share 5 tips from my “Winter Circuit Survival Guide” that will help your mental game gearing up for the quickly approaching summer circuits.
Tip #1: Find your calming mechanism
Nerves are normal but it is important that your nerves do not overcome you. Whether it is listening to your pump up playlist or taking deep breaths, find something that helps calm and focus you before it’s time to show. What keeps me calm is to simply not overthink it. I know my course, I know my horse, I know how my trainer wants me to ride and I do not think beyond those things. Once you find something to keep you calm, you will notice a difference in your performance, the feel from your horse and your overall show experience. Keep calm and enjoy the ride.
Tip #2: Take the time to enjoy the experience
With the stress and craziness that comes with horse showing, it’s easy to get caught up in it all. Take a minute to appreciate the beauty and complexity of what’s around you. Enjoy that you’re gaining new experiences, surrounded by gorgeous horses and people who share your passion in a beautiful setting. Our sport is a truly amazing thing.
Tip #3: Remember that you’re going to have bad days.
Not every round can be perfect. Sometimes you’re going to have an off day, sometimes your horse is going to have an off day, sometimes you both will and that’s just the way it goes in this sport. For every bad day, you’re going to have a day when everything comes together. If you dwell on your bad day, it will turn into multiple bad days. Cut yourself some slack and move on.
Tip #4: Allow time for rest
Showing can be physically and mentally exhausting. Allow yourself and your horse a day of rest after extensive showing when possible to recharge.
Tip #5: Focus on the ride, not necessarily the result
Yes, winning is wonderful and ribbons are great. We all love to receive a ribbon as validation for our hard work but don’t let the result dictate how you feel about your ride. Maybe you weren’t fast enough to be in the ribbons, but your horse jumped his heart out for you. Maybe you had a rail but it was your first time at a new height. Maybe you didn’t pin but you nailed every distance, even the distance to the single oxer. Positivity is key, allow receiving a ribbon to be a bonus.
And there you have it. A few things I’ve learned and some wise words (mostly fueled by my trainer’s wisdom) to help you through the upcoming show season. Good luck!