The world of horse showing is strenuous in many, many ways. Not only are we challenged physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Several exhibitors rely on the words of others to help them maintain a strong mentality. Even compliments from a random stranger can stick with us forever and often, they come at a time when we need them most.
Showing horses takes a lot of skill and confidence, and if those two aspects were to be taken away, most people would lose the drive to keep competing. Whether it is a particular routine they do before they show, a superstition, a phrase they found on the internet, some advice they were given, or even just their own motto, we all have that “voice” in the back of our heads that motivates us. We asked some of the industry’s top exhibitors what mantra, quote, superstition or routine they use when they show.
Meg Pye – Something my trainer, Keith Miller said to me when I first started riding with him years ago was, “Have a plan. Then have a plan B.” I feel like I’ve kept those words close in both my hunt seat and all-around classes. I always try to watch at least one pattern or the rail class prior to it being my turn, because I learn by watching. It helps solidify my nervousness and helps me visualize my plan…and plan B. I’ve also been known to put on a good dance party as I’m getting dressed to show. Ask someone, I’m sure there are saved videos for blackmail. Lol. I love good music playing in the barn, it lightens the mood.
Patty Bogosh – My horse is an overachiever so I have to be in the zone and be on the top of my mental game or he overthinks everything. In order to do that, I ride every step of that pattern – during practice, in my head before the class, and when I’m showing. I can’t get ahead of myself or he does exactly what I’m thinking – he literally reads my mind. So, we practice in the arena to find our spots but then I can’t over-practice it or he knows what’s coming. We will practice either in the middle of the night or really early in the morning (basically the middle of the night) and then I put him back to bed so he can rest. I then prepare myself by going step-by-step in my head and visually laying out the pattern – saying to myself “walk, walk, walk, walk…lope, lope, lope, lope…GO FAST GO! GO! GO!” (for extended lope) while I’m reviewing it in my head and showing. He does exactly what I say in my head, so if I’m having a good day, he is too. If I’m struggling, he is too. It’s really amazing how intuitive he is, but he really holds me accountable to be his partner in the show pen.
Vanessa Froman – My mantra the last few years to help my nerves get a reminder of perspective has been “We’re not saving lives here, it’s just horse showing!” It really does help take my heart rate down a few beats when I remind myself that what I’m doing is for fun and is not as serious as saving human lives. To calm myself down further, I am trying to work on counting my breaths like when we meditate, although I can’t do that very well with all these extended trot marathon showmanship patterns that seem to be popular right now!! Lol. But, as I’m approaching the start cone, I count my inhales and exhales to settle my mind and focus on just being. I have lots of “stupidstitions” as I call them. I have specific socks for showmanship days and different ones for just horsemanship, I always travel with a teddy bear my friend Lorena made for me of a shirt my dad used to wear and a horse shoe from my horse Rudy, and Collin always has to have a special clean rag in a plastic bag in our groom bag that he calls his “emotional support towel” that wipes the sweat away.
Allison Rassinoux – No real routine, but I do like to have show makeup on and be semi-ready to go when I get to the grounds. I do talk to my horse, Puddin’, on the way down to a class/warm-up. I don’t think it helps him in any way, but it calms me down a bit. I also try to slip in a selfie with Puddin’ before I get on. Anyone who has seen my social media can attest to my obsession with selfies with my Puddin’.
June Liston – Fluffy and I get on pace for the Western Riding by listening to Jet Airliner by the Steve Miller Band. In fact, I start listening to it when I leave for the show grounds, in the car on Western Riding day. When it plays during my ride, I’m seriously pumped. To prepare for the trail, I methodically ride the pattern in my head; if I can visualize the path and the obstacles in detail, we’ll have a good ride. Doing this will also put me to sleep the night before, so it also ensures I get a good rest. When we get to the trail warm-up, we try not to ride the pattern in order and finish up working on the slow stuff, like the backup or the walks to put Fluffy in the right frame of mind.
Carey Nowacek – I’m not sure I necessarily do ONE thing or that I have a “Mantra”. If I have anything, it is Johnna Letchworth in my head telling me ‘Don’t suck.’ Haha, but mainly, I am envisioning how I want to lay out the pattern and thinking about the pieces I know I need to focus on. You will see me reach behind my back with my right arm before I show to stretch my shoulders back before I go into the horsemanship. I used to have all kinds of superstitions when I was younger, but these days, I’m just happy to be out here showing.
Johnna Letchworth – While I’m not sure I have a mantra or any way of really pumping myself up, I do find myself doing the same thing before I show. Depending on what class, what show, and honestly what horse and how broke they are, I will go over the pattern multiple times in my head. I will then visualize myself and that horse laying out the pattern exactly how I want it to look. If I get interrupted, lost or simply not liking the way it’s going, I will start over and do this until I’ve completed the pattern from start to finish. This gives me the confidence to visualize what I am about to do. I also will ask myself where I will struggle. And then, when warming up, I will focus on the things I will have trouble with more than the things I know I can do.
Jamie Dowdy – This might change a bit from horse show to horse show but for the most part, I am pretty consistent in my practice. I enjoy getting up early and stretching, talking to my loved ones, contemplating my day, seeing the ride I want to have in my head (more of a major event practice). I have to have conversations with myself so I slow down and listen to the conversation the horse needs to have…hopefully we are on the same page. Most of the time, I like getting my horses ready to show. Sometimes, I have a horse that needs some space from me, and I will ask another. I get myself ready. You will find lipstick, perfume, and gum in my toolbox. I test run my horse. Take a few deep breaths before I enter the show pen and when I’m in the show pen. I count or sing a song, whatever I can find that best suits the dance I want to have with that specific horse. Most of the time, I am cultivating a young or green horse that needs reassurance or very direct direction.
Julie Hoefling – I’m very routine-oriented and structured when it comes to showing. For example, I have a certain rotation of socks I wear, follow a certain process to get ready, and always warm-up the same at every show. Having control over the way I do things and in what order, brings a lot of confidence and calmness for me. I also allow plenty of time in case something doesn’t go as planned, so I don’t have to panic or rush. We tend to say around our barn, “I’m going to think about getting ready,” or “I’m going to think about going up to the pen,” which means, we are going to start doing it, but we’re going to go step-by-step and take our time. And then, when things don’t go the way you plan, we also have another mantra in our barn which really helps to bring some perspective. There will always be another horse show, and one after that, and another one after that…
Kim Gutowski – I do a centering exercise I learned when racing Porsches. It helps center your mind, body and senses so you can be at one with yourself to then be at one with your horse. It really helps me focus on the job at hand. I use it before surgery as well. I also tell Dallas what we need to do to avoid any miscommunication.
Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer – Now that I am an older exhibitor, I’ve made quite a few trips around the pen. Even though I don’t show much, when I do now, I honestly am just excited to get in the pen and thankful I am able to. Showing horses has a lot of ups and downs, horses get hurt, don’t train up, and get sold, so if I get lucky enough to have one make it to the pen, I’m just grateful and enjoy the ride! I’m blessed with a phenomenal trainer in Joy Wheeler who always has the horse as prepared as it can be and we’ve practiced and we have a plan. So, I’m fortunate I don’t really get nervous anymore the older I’ve gotten. Joy handles every detail and all I need to do is be dressed and ready. I’m thankful to her and honestly just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Tali Terlizzi – To be honest, I don’t really have one anymore. I used to get super nervous showing the pleasure a few years ago, so I would take a shot of tequila before I showed. During the class, I’d have to just count to myself while I was showing to get my mind off of being nervous, a great friend of mine Allison McDonald taught me that, and it helped a lot.
Hilary Reinhard – Since I usually show pattern classes, I’m big at visualizing. I started doing it as a youth. For me, it’s a great way to focus and relax while I’m waiting to show. I visualize where I will be in the arena, the transitions, and, for the trail, where I will be going over the pole. Mostly, I visualize everything going right. It keeps me relaxed and focused AND it helps me remember the pattern without drilling it. When I know I’m overthinking things, I focus on just doing one thing right while I am out there. It can be something simple like counting to three after closing the gate. I find that simplifying what I’m about to do down to one thing helps me relax and allows muscle memory to take over the rest. I tell myself ‘My goal for today is to…’.