What does Allen Iverson's infamous press conference rant about practice have to do with showing horses? Photo courtesy NBA.

7 Things We Do to Sabotage Show Ring Success-Part 1

sab·o·tage (noun) ‘sa-b?-?täzh : the act of destroying or damaging something deliberately so that it does not work correctly
When you look at the definition of sabotage, the key word that makes an act of failure a true work of sabotage is “deliberate”. Let me ask you, how many of you decide ahead of time exactly how you are going to create failure by snatching it out of the jaws of success? Therefore, in the true spirit of sabotage, I would say that very few people commit “Conscious Sabotage” by pre-planning the type of monkey wrench they are going to throw into their winning run. With that said, there are some common conscious things we do that result in lackluster performance. In part one of this two part series, I will address the seven deadly sins we make, and in part two, I will tell you what to do about them.

Lack of Proper Focus, aka Paying Attention

Focus is one of those funny things. Some people say they can’t focus, and quite frankly that isn’t the issue at all. We are always focusing on something, and the real issue when it comes to poor performance is that we are not focusing on the right thing at the right time. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people in a rail class looking over the rail for their trainer or coach to give them advice, or watched someone canter their way into a huge pack of horses which could have easily been avoided. The issue with both of these examples is that the rider is not putting their attention where it needs to be, which is inside the arena and involves being aware of where they are, where the other horses are, and knowing where they want to be given the current conditions.

Lack of Awareness
In this context, awareness means to be able to perceive, feel and sense what you are doing, what your horse is doing, and what is going on around you. I think of it as the precursor to focus and attention. Once you become aware of something, you can place your attention on it and if you need to make corrections you can take action on it. For each event, there are certain things that you need to be aware of, and once you learn what they are, you can train yourself to become more sensitive to the things that really matter.

Lack of Planning

There is nothing more frustrating and stressful than rushing to get inside the pen before the gate is closed. If you think it is stressful for you, here is what it can feel like to your horse…

Gee, I am standing here in the crossties resting comfortably. Now there are seven people rushing around me. What is going on? Am I in danger? Gosh, there are spray bottles going off everywhere! Do I smell Pepi? Is that fly spray? Why are they sticking a towel up my nose? Ouch. Don’t they know I hate that? Hey buddy, easy with the cinch, OK? How would you like it if I tightened your belt up like that? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Watch it with the bit, OK? You don’t need to slam it against my teeth. Now you want me to hurry to the arena? I don’t do hurry, remember? That is why you love me. I am slow and calm, but with the way you are right now, I am cranky and irritated, and now you want me to relax once I get in the pen? Are you kidding me?

I get that might be a bit dramatic, but if you realize that your actions can either hurt or help your horse get into the right mindset, you may want to pay more attention to how you treat your partner before you expect them to do their best.

Lack of a Recovery Strategy
Let’s face it, things don’t always go perfectly during a class, but once something comes up, you need to be able to react to it and rise above it. The better you are at fixing things at the first sign that they are going off track, you will begin to have rides that are in control and appear flawless.

Lack of Confidence

I have always loved the saying, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”. A confident rider knows that they can execute the task at hand, and they ride with purpose and decisiveness. In essence, they become the leader and the horse willingly does what they are asked to do. On the other hand, if a rider is not 100% sure that they are up for the challenge, they may be a bit more hesitant in making decisions and taking charge. The problem with that is, if a rider is not leading, the horse will have to take over that role, and most of the time, that is not a good thing.
Lack of Fitness
To compete in any sport, a person’s body and mind need to be in top shape. I’m not suggesting that in order to show horses, you need to have 2% body fat and be able to squat 500 pounds. What I mean by fitness is that your body is healthy, you are getting adequate amounts of water and sleep and you are fueling your body with foods that have some type of nutritional value. With the traditional horse show schedule and food choices, failure to plan your meals and figure out your sleep schedule will not only increase your chances of having a less than stellar performance, it will also affect those around you, since your ability to cope and handle stress will be at an all time low.

Lack of Practice

When I think about the value of practice, I think of May 7, 2002. Is that because I was practicing and learned a valuable lesson that I wouldn’t have learned had I not been practicing? Nope. It’s because former NBA player Allen Iverson went on a now infamous rant in a press conference about the subject of practice. If you have not heard it, I promise you it’s worth listening to, but if you don’t care to hear it, here is a transcription from of a few minutes of what he said.

“If I can’t practice, I can’t practice. It is as simple as that. It ain’t about that at all. It’s easy to sum it up if you’re just talking about practice. We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.

“How silly is that? Now I know that I’m supposed to lead by example and all that but I’m not shoving that aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I honestly do but we’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice man. We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We’re not talking about the game. We’re talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you’ve seen me play right, you’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, but we’re talking about practice right now.”

But what was the outcome of the game that he died for and played like it was his last? Iverson’s team, the Philadelphia 76ers lost. To their rival Boston Celtics. In a playoff game. My only thought is, if he had been practicing all year with the same commitment that he brought to the actual games, when he gave it everything he had, he may have had more to give.

Kirsten Farris is a regular contributor to GoHorseShow.com and a Certified Sport Consultant, Certified Equestrian Fitness Trainer, and the Author of The Workbook for the Equestrian Athlete – A Guide to Showring Success. Kirsten and her horse, Lyles Al Lie, were the 2012 and 2013 AQHA Select World Champion in Hunter Under Saddle and Reserve World Champions in 2014. For more information contact her at: kirsten@equestrianathlete.com © 2014