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Overcoming Self-Doubt in the Show Arena

Horse showing is a mental game. Exhibitors are continually trying to reach new goals and surpass expectations. However, the road to success always hits a bump or two along the way. This is perfectly normal and experienced by athletes in every sport.

Unfortunately, this causes many equestrians to muster self-doubt in the show pen. This doubt kills more dreams than anything else can. The feeling of incapability even leads some to quit this sport altogether. The problem is that the continuous striving for perfection often drives people away from the big picture.

Overcoming self-doubt is what sets the winners apart from the other competitors. It is essential to strive for progress, but do not let the bumps in the road crash your dreams.

Realize that you are more than capable

You are an equestrian. Do not take this label lightly. You are a person who trusts their life every day with a 1,200-pound animal that does not speak the same language. If that isn’t courage and bravery, what is?

Everyone hits a bump now and then, but that should not take away your entire confidence. You are more than capable of overcoming any show pen challenge that you may face.

Showing is a mental game that you have to play wisely. Equestrians are energetic, passionate, and courageous, even in times of doubt. Recognize your capabilities and be proud of yourself.

Change each doubt into a statement of confidence

“I can’t…” or “I won’t…” are the two killers of show pen confidence. This sport is challenging; exhibitors pay for other people’s opinions of their capabilities. You must first recognize the obstacles and think of ways to turn that doubt into a confident statement.

For example, “I can’t show today because I don’t think my horse is going to get the lead change,” becomes “We will try our best for the lead change and highlight our talent in the other maneuvers.” Focus on the good, acknowledge the bad, and try your best. Never underestimate the power of positivity.

Show gratitude

The world is full of the hustle and bustle, getting from one thing to the next. Through this chaotic state, it is easy to forget to show gratitude. If you start having those feelings of self-doubt, look into the warmup ring, and realize how many people support you. This could be your family, trainer, barn family, etc. It indeed takes a village to achieve success. Therefore, it is crucial to appreciate those who make your equestrian journey possible.

Ask for advice

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Even if it is nerve-wracking at times, the information may change your outlook. The equine community is full of individuals who would be more than happy to offer some wise words. Whether this is a friend in your barn or even an exhibitor who you look up to, ask a friendly face for their thoughts. The best way to learn is from one another.

Give yourself time to grow

Chances are you have heard the saying, “Good things take time.” This rings true in every facet of life, including in the show pen. Allow yourself to make mistakes, but most importantly, learn from them. Use your newfound knowledge to better your riding and horsemanship skills. Self-doubt hinders your ability to learn from prior experiences. Time is the most valuable tool, and it is essential to recognize this. Good things honestly do take time.

Remember that everyone feels doubt sometimes

You are not the only one who experiences the plague of self-doubt. Every exhibitor from the highest to lowest levels has felt this at one point or another. After all, we are human. Do not feel like you are alone or the only one who understands. Connecting with a friend, fellow exhibitor, etc. and sparking a conversation would be extremely beneficial.

Keep hustling

James Matthew Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, once said, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” When in doubt, keep hustling. The only way to overcome self-doubt is to face it head-on. If you are struggling with a particular class, get in the pen and show to the best of your ability.

Hard work is essential to achieve success and overcoming doubt. Be positive about yourself and your abilities. Always strive for improvement, but do not believe in nonexistent perfection. Overall, remember why we show horses in the first place – for fun.

About the Author: Cat Guenther is a devout equestrian and a freshman at Michigan State University. She has been riding horses for almost ten years and has loved every minute of it. Cat started and runs her successful show clothing business, Behind the Bit Show Clothing. She loves to show the all-around classes with her beloved horse, Zippos Kat Man Do, aka Teddy. Her favorite classes are horsemanship, showmanship, and trail. She is currently on a Pre-Veterinary track and hopes also to study business.