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Things to Remember When Having a Bad Show Day – with Whitney Lagace, Joe Whitt, and Whitney Vicars

Oftentimes, riders who pursue achievement so diligently that they forget about the purpose of riding horses – enjoyment and fun – often end up frustrated and miserable. On the other hand, riders who pursue happiness first, show gratitude, and have a deep commitment to improvement, walk away with more than just a win. With that gratitude and love of why we do this in the first place being so linked to better overall physical and mental health, the end result can often be an improve riding performance.

GoHorseShow asked select amateur competitor Joe Whitt, amateur competitor Whitney Vicars, and professional horsewoman Whitney Lagace how they handle bad show days.

Fixing Bad Days

As athletes, it’s essential to realize that performance is not always linear. Horses give you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and all competitive riders will agree that a bad show can be disappointing.

Select amateur competitor Joe Whitt elaborated, I don’t focus on the bad, but on what I have learned or what I can change to improve. Any day of showing horses is a great day for me, so I always appreciate the journey. I look for the good in everyone and everything. I think you decide to be positive and manage the challenges in life.”

Whitt continues, “I think this is easier the older and wiser you become, and your priorities change in life. I always look at where I started and my progress as a person, professional, and in health, and hobbies. The opportunity to enjoy showing, breeding horses, and building friendships around the horse world gives me many reasons to be grateful.”

Whitney Vicars, an amateur competitor, explained, While having bad days is frustrating, I try to remind myself that neither myself nor my horse is perfect, so off days are inevitable when showing horses. I try to remember that the bad days offer us the areas we need to work on to make progress.

Vicars elaborates, “Managing negative feelings of frustration, disappointment, and defeat is challenging. I try discussing with my trainer (who is also my dad) the negative things that happened in the class with my horse that day. We discuss what went wrong, why we think it went wrong, and how to prevent it from happening again.”

She continues, “I find that these discussions can bring positive results from the negative situation, and discussing and planning for next time helps my mindset change to a more positive, proactive one.

Professional horsewoman Whitney Lagace offered some advice to help get through those lousy show days, If my show day is not going well, I will take an honest view of the whole picture. Am I off that day, or am I showing to judges who don’t like my style?” 

“If it is the latter, then I still stick with my plan and realize it just isn’t going to be my day,” Lagace continues. “If I am not performing well or my head isn’t in the game correctly, I will set out to fix that. I will try different strategies; sometimes, I just need to go for a walk for ten minutes. Other times I do some self tough love on myself to get my act together. Many times, I realize I just need to eat something, and then the day gets better.

All About Perspective

Successful people have a particular perspective on life. This perspective or point of view helps them reach the pinnacle of achievement and happiness. Whitt strongly believes that showing horses is a blessing.

He enlightened, “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I have been fortunate to work with excellent trainers, past and present, make amazing friends, have some great horses, and reach goals and realize dreams. I always focus on where I started, my progress, and if I am having fun. You understand life more when you enjoy what you do, appreciate the opportunity, and are realistic about your abilities, finances, and goals. My riding always is better on those days.

Lagace suggested calling a close friend, venting about the problem, and trying to have a good laugh. “After that,” she said, “it’s my job to fix my mindset. It’s not that hard; you just must choose to think differently. The more you practice being positive and ensuring you’re giving off good energy, the easier it becomes.

She said, I remind myself that even though this is a tough career, I don’t want to do anything else for a living. I count my blessings often. I am fortunate to have great kids, a loving husband, and dear friends, which is most important to me.

Staying Grateful

Gratitude keeps you humble and positive. I feel horses are a reflection of their riders. The better head space you are in, the more clearly you can be in the moment and communicate with your horse, described Lagace.

If a client is stressed, Lagace tries to talk with them immediately after they enter the barn. If they’re in a good mindset, it will make their rides smoother for their horse and Lagace.

Staying grateful or having an “attitude of gratitude” helps one persevere through all the ups and downs of horse showing and life in general, described Vicars. If you are genuinely thankful to be able to ride and show, you will approach each situation with positivity and excitement, looking for opportunities to learn and improve yourself and your horse, which will make you a better rider and showman, explained Vicars.

She adds, “Of course, showing
horses is a marathon, not a sprint; it’s not something one gets good at overnight, and there’s always something to work on. However, riders willing to take constructive criticism, not allowing it to get them in a defeated mindset, but using even disappointing or difficult circumstances to see opportunities to learn and improve their skills, are the ones who rise to the top.”

Gratitude is one of the most substantial and transformative states of being. It can shift your perspective from lack to abundance and allows you to focus on the good in your life, which pulls more goodness into your reality. 

About the Author- Celsey Crabtree is a devoted APHA competitor and enjoys showing in the all-around events with her horse SmoothChocolateScotch. Celsey is an instructor at Kansas State University in the Animal Science department. When not riding, Celsey enjoys being outdoors, CrossFit, and playing with her son.