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The Key to Positive Thinking in the Show Arena


Studies have shown that humans use only 10% of their brains. The brain is a potent tool, but can also be used as a weapon in the show pen.

Often, exhibitors overthink things, which causes nerves to take control of their ride. This negativity then leads to self-doubt which leads to the death of many show careers.

Take great care of your horse and yourself

Frequently, exhibitors focus mainly on their horse and forget about personal care at shows. This is due to the long nights and extremely early mornings. Exhibitors work tirelessly to ensure their horses’ comfort and happiness.

However, in doing so, they often forget their own needs. To be in the most prime state of mind, you must take care of yourself. This means taking time to sit down and eat a nutritious meal, take a nap, or take a hot shower.

Think of the little things that could put you in a more positive mindset. This will then translate into a more positive mindset and better performance in the show pen.

Turn off negativity…just shut it down

The second you feel yourself start to become negative – stop. It is much easier said than done, especially when we live in a world of competition and the need to succeed. Do not compare your abilities to anyone else and only focus on the task at hand.

When that self-doubt hits, use this strategy – turn every negative thought into at least two positive ones. Also, think of the source of why you are in doubt. Are you nervous about the hand gallop? Or unsure your horse will get anxious?

Get to the root of why you feel negative about a particular situation and start there. Put in the hours in the saddle and overcome your challenges. This is the most effective way to fix sticky situations in the show pen and obtain a positive mindset.

Focus on something else

If you cannot automatically shut down negative thoughts, shift your focus. This tactic works both in and out of the show pen. Let’s say you are about to step up to the cone at a major show and you start to think “I am going to fail because we can’t get our lead change.”

Right away change your focus to a different topic. This could be anything from your breathing or even your visual markers in the arena. If you experience negativity before you show, focus on other things by staying busy. You can do this by cleaning your tack, going for a walk, or even just getting an extra ride in. Whenever those initial “warning” alarms start to go off, change your focus.

Only say positive things

What you say matters. From a young age, we are taught that if we have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The same rule applies when talking about your abilities.

Psychologist Gregory Jantz states, “Positive self-talk is about recognizing the truth, in situations and yourself. One of the fundamental truths is that you will make mistakes. To expect perfection in yourself or anyone else is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your actions or sheer circumstances, is also unrealistic.”

Do not hold yourself and your horse to unrealistic standards. We partake in a perfectly imperfect sport that can be unpredictable at times. Channel your nervous energy into positive self-talk. Once in a while, tell yourself ‘I can do this” or even ‘I am going to do great.”

Simple optimistic statements are a significant key to positive thinking.

Use positive visualization techniques

You have probably heard this before and will hear it again, and positive visualization is a great tool both in and out of the show pen. If you can imagine yourself succeeding, you will be more confident in the arena.

The more negative you think, the more likely bad things are to happen. Close your eyes and picture having the perfect pattern. This technique will automatically relax your nerves and help you prepare to step to the cone.

You can also use positive affirmations to help support this visualization. Affirmations are statements that evoke a picture and experience of already having what you want. Here is an example of an affirmation: “I am happily vacationing two months out of the year in a tropical paradise and working just four days a week owning my own business.”

Saying these statements a few times a day for your goals can help you picture success and ultimately achieve it.

Surround yourself with good people

The people you choose to surround yourself with play a significant role in your overall thought process. If negativity is constant, your thinking is sure to be negative as well. Make sure you are in a program that has an encouraging, supportive environment.

Healthy competition is great and pushes each exhibitor to become better. However, when this competition turns toxic, you are not going to perform to the best of your ability in the show pen. Also, be conscious of how supportive you are to others. Acting kindly towards others will genuinely make you happier. Remember to be a good person and surround yourself with other good people.

Psychologist Benjamin Hardy said, “If you’re feeling stuck and struggling to make the progress you want, take a look around you. Most people adapt to whatever environment they find themselves. They have what psychologists call an ‘external locus of control,’ where they believe factors outside of them dictate the direction of their lives. Thus, they live reactively to whatever life throws at them.”

Hardy also adds “If you want to improve and succeed in your life, you need to surround yourself with people who have higher standards than you do.”


About the Author: Cat Guenther is a devout equestrian and a senior at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She has been riding horses for almost nine years and has loved every minute of it. Cat started and runs her successful show clothing business, Behind the Bit Show Clothing. Her favorite classes are horsemanship, showmanship, and trail. She plans to attend Michigan State University in the future to study veterinary medicine and possibly also business. Cat is excited to show the all-around classes in 2019 with Zippos Kat Man Do aka Teddy.

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