You Had a Bad Show? Get Over Yourself

Showing horses is unlike any other endeavour I have ever tried to undertake. It depends and revolves around so many factors. For me personally, it takes so much time and determination at home to even think about entering the show pen. It's expensive. It's gruelling at times. For me, the battle over my nerves, and my head, have been my most paramount hill to climb. I find myself confident and secure at home, and the minute I go to walk to the herd, my brain starts to run a mile a minute, and my anxiety takes over.

At the last winter series show in March, I picked up my very first cheque on Lady! We scored a 70, and it put us in third place. I was ecstatic. After a long winter of trying to figure out my horse, and myself, and everything else that comes in between and around those two topics, I finally got a decent run down. I floated around my own existence for a week, on cloud nine, we were getting it.

Then I wrote my previous blog post, about being a bad ass, and started to think, hell yeah, I AM a bad ass. At home, my boss has been riding Lady, and she's coming leaps and bounds from when I brought her to his barn in October. She has sparked way up, and seems excited and happy to get out there and do her job. Personally, I've been riding and working on another horse, CD, that my boss also owns. Ironically, the first horse I ever worked cows on in 2013, CD is solid and is helping me get my timing down and my mind a little quieter. Riding him really boosted my confidence, and I decided to show him and my mare at the first NCHA show of the year last weekend.

I opted to show CD in the "Never Won a Buckle" class both days, and Lady in the 2,000 Limit Rider. Heading into the show we had a really, really busy week, and I felt the anxiety creeping into my head earlier than it had before previous shows. My first NCHA show on my own horse, on TWO horses.. I really wanted to do well. First downfall.

Of course I have NO video or photos (I am the worst), but I can give you a quick run down of how it went. The first day I headed into the show pen on CD first, and my run went to absolute hell in a hand basket before I could even fricken blink. CD was creeping up the pen, which means he was pushing the cow up toward the judges stand - not good. He had never done this at home and it freaked me right out. Ultimately, and after watching my video back, I could see that I was leaning way forward to over-compensate for his movement. This caused my legs to swing behind me and up. My nerves were causing me to clench and grab him with both feet - which in turn caused him to come up the pen. I also had a couple really pretty hot quits (tagging off the cow before the cow turns away from my horse), and a reining point (tugging on the reins) here and there.. you know.. for good measure. For some reason, the judge still scored me a 68. I'll take it, it wasn't.

Then, I had to throw my saddle onto Lady and get her ready. We went into the pen and I felt mentally crystal clear. Oddly, the horse I had been so confident on at home, I felt nervous and anxious on, but with Lady, I felt a lot more calm. I have now shown her enough that we've had bad runs, and good runs, and runs in between, and I just wanted to go out there and have fun. We did just that - so much fun! My herd work (bringing the cows out of the herd) was the absolute BEST it's ever been - with both horses. A previous serious issue with me has been worrying and stressing about getting a cow in front of me, this time, I just went in there, tried to cut a cow on the outside and put my hand down. It worked! Our last cow, two were in the working area, and I should have stepped Lady a little closer to the cow I wanted to cut, she got hooked on the other leaving and so I had to pick her up and rein her back, causing us to lose points. The judge actually marked me a penalty for horse quitting a cow, which she never did, but my first cow was a little wild and I quit very early on instead of showing more control over the cow, and so I think it looked like maybe she quit it. I walked from the herd with a 64 score, but super happy on how great my mare felt - the absolute best she's EVER felt in the show pen. Progress people!

The second day I was mentally really trying to prepare to ride CD, and yet, we still didn't have a very good run. I wasn't kicking effectively, and at the right time, so due to delayed timing I was kicking CD past the cow, and getting out of position. I have a lot going on in my head, as i'm learning to ride cutting horses, I'm learning to ride a lot more with my feet than I ever have. Sometimes, when I get nervous, I forget I have my feet, and I leave my horses hanging mid-air, causing them to lose confidence in the situation. I walked from the herd with a 69, pretty disappointed in how the run had played out. Obviously it is our first show together, and it takes awhile to mesh with a horse. It was frustrating that I had been so confident and assertive with him at home, and felt like we were really clicking, but when we got to the show that all disappeared. It's a real lesson in how much your mental state effects your horse, and the situation around you.

Before I went to the herd with Lady my boss worked her on the flag, and someone had fooled around with the settings causing it to be very fast. She got really anxious and nervous. When we finally got the flag sorted out and slowed down, she came back and worked nicely, but by that time, it was nearing when I needed to show. I really felt like we didn't have enough time to come down from that, and she didn't have enough air when we entered the show pen. She felt super anxious, and so, like clockwork, my anxiety came roaring back. The run was all over the place, I barely remember it, but it wasn't super pretty. Once again, we scored a 64.

I was mad. I was frustrated. I was pissed off and I was very, very disappointed. The next day at work, over-tired and disappointed in myself, I lashed out a bit at my boss for how the run had went. I reasoned that if we had flagged her earlier, and let her come down from the situation and get more air, then our run would have been so much better. In a shitty, round-about way I tried to blame my boss for a part of what went wrong. My boss basically told me to shut the hell up. He agreed, the situation hadn't been ideal, but if I had just calmed down, stayed positive, and been there for my horse, and showed confidently, she would have taken that confidence from me. Instead I hung out her mouth as we entered the herd, I didn't use my legs to give her clear communication, and basically let my mentalness blow my run. My boss kindly reminded me that my herd work was the absolute best it's ever been, that my mare felt perfect when I rode her correctly and that this show was my first big show and on one of the horses I rode, I had never showed him before. Maybe, he suggested, firmly, I get over my bad attitude.

Then, a very successful non-pro came to work horses at the ranch and told me he thought my show had been pretty good, that there was a lot of good things and that we were making tons of progress. I just shrugged and said that it hadn't been the show I was hoping for and need to work on a lot of stuff. He just laughed and said, "get over yourself, we all have a ton to work on, that's the whole point of the game."

He is right of course, as is my boss, and although that is proving to be way, way harder than I previously thought - getting over myself, and quelling my anxiety, it's definitely what I need to work on when I go show my horse. I've seemingly forgotten how much faking it until you make it, and showing confidence in yourself and your horse, can also cause your horse to draw from your confidence. I also have come to the realization that if your run is going to hell, all you can do is pretend it's not, your job as a competitor is to keep showing your horse like your marking an 80 out there, you should make the judge question that anything is going wrong - EVEN if EVERYTHING is going wrong. So that's where we are at, we had a pretty bad show, and I definitely took more than the allotted time available to pout and be moody about it. We are going to go back to the drawing board at home and really work on some exercises to get my mind and riding in tuned, and dialed into, my horses. Then, when we go to the next show, even if everything is going wrong, and I'm frustrated and disappointed in myself, I'm going to fake it and just ride. my. horse.

Life... it aint easy. Atleast I'm surrounded by good horses, and better people that will tell me when to shut the hell up.

All photos on this post by the incredible, Sarah McKenzie


  1. Well those ole boys have been there done that, so I hope you heed their advice. It's tough to get over show jitters- and I only vaguely remember because it's been so long that I even went into a show arena, but I remember that adrenalin rush. Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. Big, long slow breaths.

  2. Hi there :) I found your blog through a fellow blogger (Crystal at Ranch Riding) and have been reading for a bit now, but I'm pretty sure this is my first time commenting.
    Anyhoo... love this post. I really liked that you were able to take their "get over yourself" advice with a grain of salt. I think that plus having a good mental game is key to being successful, no matter how you measure success or what you're attempting.
    I have a similar, but kind of opposite, problem. I make everything too casual. I don't want to lose the fun aspect of horses, they're my hobby not my living. However by doing so I don't push myself hard enough. I have a couple of great girls in my corner though telling me I need to let that competitive side of my personality out (I admit, part of the reason I don't is I can be a bit of a jerk lol). I could fit a really long comment in here, instead I think I should sort it out and work it into a blog post ;)

  3. That's how it goes, just when you think you are doing good it all falls apart. And ya so the show sucked but your herdwork was good and so build on that. Its always a learning curve, so many variable anything can happen just ride your horse, don't worry about getting a great score just ride. That has helped me a whole lot. (and I can trust my horse that makes a huge difference for me)
    Glad your trainer can tell you as it is and get you back to working, next time ;) And your scores were not that bad for messing up like that so it musta been somewhat good

  4. Mmm I sort of love this. Rule #6: Don't take yourself so seriously. (What are rules 1-5?) They don't exist.

    Congratulations, your hard work is paying off and these experiences can only serve to help you be a better horse person.

  5. I'll promise there is no absence of what I call "Do-gooders" offering exhortation to our starting horseback rider, and most mean well, this incorporates yours genuinely here. In any case, there will be an expansive number of individuals appearing with a plan that incorporates everything except for the best enthusiasm of the starting rider. Went on horseback

  6. Dear, I like your blog very much, I can get many useful information. Hope that we can communicate with each other. By the way, have you ever used clone partition to ssd ? Unfortunately I lost my partition. I do not know how to do.


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