"Show season." It sends a little tingle through you to hear the words. You can't wait for it. Finally, a chance to prove how hard you've been working, how much you've improved since last year. You scoff a bit. Last year has nothing on this year. You're a stronger, more solid rider than ever before. You're going to kill it this show season.
These are the first thoughts of every rider when the first of the year rolls around, and we all bask in the confident glow of what's to come... until we start to think about what's actually to come. The creeping sense of fear inevitably sets in, eating away at our ego slowly as negative thoughts begin to rear their ugly heads. Am I ready for this? Am I going to fit into my show breeches? Do I still have my show breeches?
You’re not alone. These nasty little self-defeating thoughts are probably the most formidable villain when it comes to show season, and these doubts can ruin the experience far worse than a bad performance.
Think about it; even if your ride stinks, if you felt good and had a great attitude, you’ll still look back over the show as a fun experience. For most of us (those who don’t make a living in equestrian sports) that’s the most important thing about this. Riding is supposed to be fun. We do it because we love it, and we want to be around others who feel the same. Too often, we get caught up in the negative “thought spiral” and get defeated by our self-esteem before we even get the final results. It’s time to change that, and we have a few tips from our own experience and a little help from Lauren Cohen, a professional “Self Esteem” Coach.
Play Dress Up
One of Lauren’s first tips (and we heartily agree) is to use the charm of a new power outfit. “You’re setting yourself up for success by predetermining your mood for the occasion,” Lauren says. “It’s the same mentality behind saying self-affirmations; you’re telling your brain to produce positive associations.” There’s also something she calls the “Christmas Day effect.”
“You’re giving yourself something to look forward to by picking out and saving a special outfit, and you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction just by wearing it. It’s like giving yourself a present, and it’s hard to feel anything negative when you’ve just received a gift you really want,” Lauren says.
There’s also something to be said for feeling like you look good. There are so many, arguably too many, fit and gorgeous women and men in the equestrian world, and that can lead to us turning the judgment eye inward on ourselves. If we’re being honest, the holidays aren’t that far in our rearview mirror and most of us haven’t lost that 5-10 pounds yet. That’s why understanding your body type is important, so you can find the most flattering fits and always feel your best.
“It’s truly amazing how powerful positive body image can be,” Lauren recounts. “The truth is that none of us look as bad as we think, and simply loving yourself when you look in the mirror can cause you to stand up straighter and radiate a glow that’s tangible to others.”
To that we say a hearty cheers!
Make It About Your Posse
We spend a lot of the day wishing we were out riding or hanging with our horse and not being able to. At the very least, shows are an opportunity to spend some real quality time with your horse. Take some treats and just hang out with them. Look at grooming as more of a bonding experience rather than acting like a Dance Mom getting their child ready for Little Miss America. Maybe snap a few selfies while you wait!
“Distraction is key when facing an event that stresses you out,” Lauren says. “Let it be a blip on your radar and shift your attention to something that makes you happy. Don’t let your mind harp on it and everything that could be wrong. Tell yourself it’s just like getting in your car to drive somewhere; it’s just something that’s inevitable and not a big deal. You’re focused on getting to your destination, so you aren’t even thinking about the events beforehand.”
And we tend to find that the best distraction is making the event into an opportunity to spend bonding time supporting your equestrian buddies! Relish it! And if you’re thinking about it in those terms, who cares if the ride doesn’t go quite as planned? You’ll still have spent a day with those you really care about, be it human or equine.
Actively choosing your thoughts like selecting an outfit will keep your body from entering the dreaded “fight or flight” mode in response to your stress, so only choose to acknowledge the calming thoughts and let the others fall away without getting any precedence. It may take some practice, but keeping yourself in a relaxed state is key and controlling your thoughts is the first step. The truth is, you’re awesome already. You’re an equestrian, and just the fact that you’re at a show means you’re doing something most people only dream of. It’s takes a lot of bravery to get on a horse and do what we do, and a person that brave and fabulous deserves only respect, even from your own brain! Hopefully these tips will help you overcome those pesky show nerves and let you take on the whole experience with style and excitement. We look forward to seeing what you’ve got! Be sure to tag us with #shophalterego so we can watch you shine this season!