10 Things for Rookies to Remember Going into the Level 1 Championships
American actress, Helen Hayes, once said, “The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
For the past several years, AQHA has been developing programs to help grow participation at a grassroots level. Rookies are a quintessential aspect of a thriving equine industry. When AQHA added these classes, it created incredible opportunities for newcomers to learn in a setting alongside competitors with similar levels of experience.
The Level 1 Championships is the ultimate platform for novice competitors to showcase their abilities and hard work against fellow exhibitors.
Attending a massive show is nerve-wracking for anyone – especially for a newcomer. Therefore, it is crucial to plan, stay focused, and most importantly, have fun. Enjoy and improve your experience by following these ten tips.
1. Do not be intimidated
Spending your time at the show worrying is not conducive to an overall enjoyable experience. Remember that there are many other exhibitors in the same boat as you. Figure out a method to control your nerves, whether it be listening to music, visualizing your pattern, etc. Find what works best for you and stick to it. Do not allow the nerves to consume you. Remember that the judges are rooting for you, not against you. Allow yourself to approach the starting cone with a positive mindset.
2. Plan ahead
All exhibitors have arrived at a show and experienced that horrific moment of realization, “I forgot my _______.” These moments are avoidable with proper preparation. Double and triple check your lists and trailers. Complete all your errands before leaving for the show. Overpacking a little doesn’t hurt anyone. In the event something is forgotten at home or the barn, remember that there are very few things duct tape can’t fix.
3. Stay focused
Attending the Level 1 Championships is an inspiring and excellent opportunity. However, it is crucial to stay focused before and during the show. Do not worry about the exhibitors around you, focus solely on your performance and abilities. Concentrate only on aspects you can control. For example, you can control the presentation of your horse and yourself. Take time to visualize your perfect ride before entering the pen. Be confident with your plan. Lastly, take a few deep, cleansing breaths before entering the arena or walking to the start cone.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Nothing can make up for lack of practice. Put in the work beforehand to achieve your goals for the horse show. Study the patterns in whatever method works best for you. Everyone learns differently. Some useful pattern studying methods include; practicing on foot, drawing the pattern out, or even creating a short song with the pattern maneuvers. Be sure to always have a copy of your patterns with you. This will help you envision your ride when practicing.
5. Create a positive atmosphere
Surround yourself with a supportive team and demonstrate kindness to all. It may sound cheesy, but nothing is more important than fostering a favorable environment for both you and your horse. Negativity causes stress which leads to a poor performance in the show pen.
6. Become familiar with the patterns, schedule and grounds
Take your time to become acquainted with the schedule, grounds, etc. This will make you less stressed and more comfortable in the new setting. Also, be sure to know your patterns. This is extremely important. If needed, set some “cones” up in the aisle or outside and run your patterns. It may sound silly, but it helps with memorization.
7. Set goals
No matter how big or small your goals are, it takes hard work and dedication to achieve them. Evaluate your abilities now, write down your goals for the horse show and then write five steps you must take to reach those aspirations. Do not be afraid to be a “Goal Digger.” Also, don’t fear if your path takes an unexpected course – life is unpredictable. However, most goals can be reached with time and dedication.
8. Stay humble, but be confident
Attending the Level 1 Championships is an enriching experience, but it is extremely crucial to be humble. This correlates with creating a supportive, positive environment. Confidence in the horse show arena is important, but do not portray arrogance. Keep this in mind as you interact with fellow rookies and exhibitors. American businessman, motivational speaker and author, Farrah Gray, once said, “Knowledge makes people humble. Arrogance makes people ignorant.”
9. Thank your horse
Your horse is your teammate. Be sure to recognize this and thank them. Show horses are athletes just as much as or more than the rider. They work and train hard. Our equine partners place all their trust in us to guide them in the show pen. They deserve lots of hugs, neck scratches and horse treats.
10. Enjoy the experience
This is the most important aspect of horse showing. Enjoy the atmosphere, appreciate your support team and create amazing memories. It can be daunting when showing in a large setting, but keep in mind that those pre-show nerves are controllable. Reflect on how blessed you are to be able to experience such an enlightening opportunity. Remember that rookies are rookies. It is okay to make mistakes, just use those mistakes to learn from and enjoy your time at the show.
About the Author – Cat Guenther is in a junior at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She has ridden horses since she was eight years old. When Cat is not at the barn, she focuses on her small businesses “Behind the Bit Tack Sales” and “Tack to Dye for.” She hopes to one day attend Michigan State University and study to become an equine veterinarian. Cat is extremely excited to compete in the rookie and novice youth all around events this year at the Novice Championships with her new equine partner, Royal Invite.