Let’s face it: disappointing show days are inevitable. Now everyone’s definition of disappointing is a little different but you get the point. Maybe you fell off, had a refusal, messed up your dressage test, or scored a 6 on a movement that you know deserved an 8. Regardless of your discipline, I am thrilled to share my favorite tips on how I stay optimistic after an unfortunate day.
I feel like I’ve had just about every bad show day in the book (knock on wood). I have fallen off multiple times, been eliminated for going over the time limit on cross country, scored a low 50% on a dressage test (high 40 in eventing dressage), forgotten my show jumping course, and more. One season I only finished 2/5 eventing shows I started! The best way to jump back better than ever, is to have the right attitude. I firmly believe that a rider’s outlook on the show has a bigger impact on them and their horse than they realize.
#1: Find something to be thankful for
Whether you are thankful that you are still alive, that you were able to finish your round, or that you scored an 8.5 on your halt despite a not so awesome test otherwise, focus on something. Focus on something to be happy about; something that will put a smile on your face. Find a picture that sums up the best part of your weekend and make it your phone home screen. Now every time you pick up your phone you will be reminded of that happy moment. Learning to focus on the positives can make it easier to move forward and keep working. I have even been to shows where the best part of my weekend was my horse getting on the trailer without issue!
*No matter how angry you are, please do not take your anger out on your horse, yourself, or the people around you. Ever heard the saying ‘Flight or fight’? Horses are are flight animals meaning that they would rather run away from the situation than fight it. Basically, your horse does not have the intention of hurting you. If he did, please remember that he is an animal.
#2: Remember that progress cannot be made without struggle
How in the world are you supposed to know what to work on without ever struggling with it? If everything was easy and perfect, you would not improve. Once you have found something to be grateful for, it is time to address the elephant in the room: the sad parts about your weekend. What parts of your dressage do you need to improve? How can you ensure your cross country course will be practically flawless? What aspects of your equitation need work? No matter what you struggled with, you must be able to realize that your imperfections and subpar rides are what give you something to work towards. They help build your resilience and allow you to appreciate what you have even more. Make fixing your imperfections your goal.
#3: Make a game plan
Now it is time to tackle your flaws. Take out a calendar and some colorful pens and stickers. Write your end goal on a sticky note. Make it bold and even a little in your face and then place it on the day you hope to overcome your challenge. Every time you open your planner or bullet journal you want to look at that sticky note and know that that is your goal. Now, the reason your goal is on a sticky note is so that you can move it around. Our goals need to be attainable and the fact of the matter is that when we are dealing with a living animal, things do not always go according to plan. You should be able to push the deadline back if things aren’t going to plan, and even pull it forward a bit if you and your horse are making leaps and bounds of improvements.
Work towards that end goal everyday. Put your heart and soul into improving. Do not stop until you are satisfied.
At the end of the day, I hope that each of you are able to find a way to be grateful for at least one aspect of your show. Count your blessings and thank God for all that he has given you. This life is a blessing and what we have should not be taken for granted.