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Believe in Your Unicorn, Believe in Yourself

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Suzy Kassem – 

Anyone who has shown for any length of time understands the feelings of uncertainty and nervousness that comes with showing horses. This can be especially true when showing a new horse, a green horse, or a horse that occasionally likes to test you. We often get so mentally focused on what could go wrong; we keep ourselves from doing what is right.

Many of us have blown a class before we ever even walked into the show pen. It may not have happened because our horse misbehaved or because we were terrible. It’s often because mentally, at that moment, we did not believe we had the ability or the horse to prevail in that class.

When we let our nerves take over, all confidence triumphs with self-doubt, and ultimately we walk out of the show pen disappointed in our horse, and disappointed in ourselves. It is okay to take some time to feel down after a bad show, but it’s more important to think about how you can be better with your horse next time.

Ask yourself what went wrong and decide how to fix it. Don’t lose faith. It is often the most difficult horses and experiences that teach us the most.

It starts in the practice pen

Trusting your horse and believing in your ability to perform well together takes practice and time. As much as we all want it to happen overnight, instant success is rare. The more time you can spend in the saddle getting to know your horse, the better your relationship will be.

The practice pen will help to reveal your weaknesses and build your confidence. It is important to remember to practice with a purpose. Make an effort to fix what has gone wrong in the past. Be present in practice and make sure your focus is on your horse. Be patient and forgiving with your horse and yourself.

Seek advice

Make the time to talk with your trainer or mentor on how you can improve. It is impossible to set your horse up for success if you are the one causing the problem. Ask them to provide honest feedback on how you can help your horse to be better. Write down their advice, and mentally prepare for your next ride. Remember improvement takes time.

Be open to change

Sometimes to improve, you have to be willing to try something new. This is especially true with young horses or a horse you are learning to ride. Change can be difficult, but it can also be what you need to succeed with your horse. Be open to suggestions and willing to embrace a new journey.

Don’t worry about what others are saying

Don’t let the fear of what people think or say affect your performance with your horse. It doesn’t matter what people say. The only person you should be doing this for is you. Worrying about others, only takes away from your focus and your ride.

When you walk in the arena to show, remember why you are there. Focus on what you know and ride your horse to the best of your ability. The only person you need to beat is who you were yesterday. Other people in the arena do not matter. Trust your horse to perform and ride to the best of your ability.

Watch those you admire

Take the time to watch people who stand out to you in the show pen. Admire them, but don’t let jealousy take away from what they can teach you. Don’t compare yourself. We all start somewhere. Those you admire have struggled too. Pay attention to the way they ride, how they treat their horse, how they prepare, and their confidence. Think about what makes them successful, and how you could be more like them.

Hang on to the good and let go of the bad

After each practice and show, take the time to pick at least one good thing you accomplished with your horse. Think about how you achieved it and how you can do it again in the future. Store it in your memory. It is okay to review what went wrong, but don’t dwell on it. Focusing on mistakes isn’t beneficial for you or your horse. Talk your ride over with your trainer or mentor and then move on.

“You have put too much work into your dream to let it die inside of you.” Rachel Hollis

Believing in your horse starts with believing in yourself. You have to believe that the two of you can succeed together as a team. When the going gets tough, remember why you started showing. Instead of getting frustrated with setbacks, try to appreciate the learning experience. Everyone struggles, but not everyone fights to be better. Believe you can be better. Believe in your unicorn, believe in yourself.

About the Author: Ashley Freeman Shook graduated with a Master’s Degree in Animal Science in 2015. She has been showing horses since she was a little girl. Today, she focuses on riding and showing cutting horses. She also raises cattle and two little cowboys with her husband in Oklahoma.