What does winning mean to you??
Does it mean winning first place in your competition?
Is it mean placing in the top 5 or 10?
Does it mean not being nervous while you ride?
How about…. not having an unscheduled dismount from your horse?
Is it progress towards your goal?
Or is it your horse making progress in his or her training?
Or it simply STARTING toward your goal and TRYING new things…
Winning is all of those things depending on the stage of competition you or your horse is at! Have you experienced any of these issues???
…..The fear of not starting, not trying or not competing because you are afraid of making a mistake. The other day at lessons, my students were switching horses and working patterns on unfamiliar horses… NOT an easy task to do… but I feel it 1) makes you appreciate the things that are GREAT about your horse, 2) Learn things you would like to improve in your horse and 3) Makes YOU a better rider! One of my students said she did not want do it because she did not want to mess up. That defeats the whole point of practice! Practice is for testing yourself, your horse, different techniques, challenging yourself all in an effort to “dial it in” for when you do compete. Failure is immediate feedback… If something didn’t work out right….that is the opportunity then to go back, tweak your approach, try again and you are then that much farther on the road to finding that perfectionism you are trying to seek…but Newsflash… there are NO perfect runs… and we can always improve… So get out there and TRY! THAT IS WINNING!
….The fear of people watching you and judging you. A few years ago I had a student who had been riding and competing in rodeos and barrel races and was a great rider and pretty accomplished. She got a new horse that was not as far along as her other horses … and we all know it takes time to connect and really get your timing correct with a new horse. She was struggling a bit.. hitting some poles and just not quite connecting with her horse. She became increasingly frustrated and began not wanting to take that horse to time only’s and exhibition races because she thought “She should be better than this!” She struggled to understand that she must ride her horse where he and they are at. I have experienced this myself as well when starting newer horses… folks expect you to run at a certain level… I went to a smaller local gymkhana to get my horse out and get her more experience. She was not ready for runs, so i was just loping the pattern making sure we were smooth, quiet at the gate and creating an all around positive experience for my horse. I was teased about sand bagging. NO… I am doing what my horse needed to make her successful. AND those of you that know me personally.. this horse is ANNA who is absolutely awesome and still running strong and most importantly… quiet and sane after many years of competing! No one knows another riders horse, situation, skills, setbacks, challenges, successes etc! So Do not get hung up on what other people think. Ride your own race.. don’t compare yourself to anyone else! THAT IS WINNING!
Loving your horse more than the sport:
Remember it is our job to help our horses learn the job we want them to do and to set them up for success. I know it is easy to get frustrated when training does not go as planned or your horse is not progressing at the speed you wish. Remember to be empathetic you your horse. I equate it to you learning Algebra (or chemistry or whatever subject you struggle with) Put yourself in your horses position and think of ways you can help your horse learn his job… just like your teachers help you learn in school. It sure bothers me when I see girls get hard on their horses for mistakes their horses make and wonder if the rider has truly put the time in to teach their horses their job. Impatience=insecurity.. You can expect a lot from your horse.. but you need to accept a little (meaning give them a break/ reward for trying) and reward often. This will keep your horse wanting to do their job. My other pet peeve at races is when 1) girls struggle to get into the arena… they finally are successful but then in their run they are whipping, spurring and jerking their horses around the barrels and 2) when girls obviously have a bad run and have hit a barrel and the run will be a DQ, they still spur and whip their horses home..for what? To me if your horse has gate issues (or a bad run) and you get in… you should do your best to reward your horses efforts and make the run as pleasant and stress free as possible on your horse. I realize this is tough as again YOU WANT TO WIN but in this case love your horse … more than the sport! You may need to take a step back in order to preserve your horse and not burn them up. It takes many dedicated hours of slow and patient practice to get barrel horses consistent. Be honest with your efforts! Help your horse to succeed more than you want to win. THAT IS WINNING!
Winning is a state of mind:
Winners keep a positive attitude and outlook no matter the situation or outcome. We are so very blessed to be living in the greatest country on the planet and to have the awesome ability to ride such awesome creatures. Who wouldn’t rather be barrel racing… than going to work, school etc.?? Even if it is not your greatest day… I would still rather be with my horses .. right?! So practice being positive. Winners turn things around in their heads to look at the positive. Train your brain to look at the good… not the bad. And trust me … there is good in every bad… you may have to dig a little to find it… but there is something there… Look for it! If you hit a barrel but your horse who has gate issues walked right in the arena.. WIN! If your horse clocks a slower time but didn’t drop his shoulders that you have been working hard to correct… WIN! Remember failure is feedback.. so if your run did not go as planned… Look for the things you did well in the run, then be grateful for the opportunity to learn from the feedback you have received and work on fixing your errors to make a better run next time. Celebrate small victories and remember to run your own race. You know what things you and your horse struggle with .. when you make progress … Celebrate! Develop a winning attitude with absolute certainty (defined as perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or the mental state of being without a doubt)…If you can do that .. you win no matter what! And that attitude is contagious not just in the arena.. but in all aspects of your life! Be Positive.. and Keep Riding! THAT IS WINNING!
Meet Emma….She has had her share of challenging horses, ..hot..testy… insecure…gate issues…and has had her share of stunt rides and unscheduled dismounts. Emma has taken on all of her challenges with a positive attitude and a lot of hard work and credits those experiences for making her the horse person she is today. She loves her horse and has created a winning equine partner. Watch her lay down this solid run in the first high school rodeo of the season! She will only get better from here on out! THAT IS WINNING!