Monday, June 20, 2011

Show Woes: Dealing With Fear

Air Mare!
(Note the Shoe By Her Schnozz)
Been doing a bit of a straw poll with my athletic friends and with my riding friends.  The question I've asked them to consider is, "What is your biggest challenge with respect to your sport?"  Lack of time, lack of talent, and lack of money are common answers, but by far the most common is fear.

Okeydokey, this sounds promising!  Let's dissect that a bit, shall we?  Fear of what, exactly?  Again, there are a myriad of responses.  Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of success. (Really??? Fear of success?  Shakes head with complete deficiency of comprehension. Sorry, don't mean to be rude, but that's one I can't wrap my head around.)

The issue for me is fear.  Not fear of going of course, or fear of making a fool out of myself.   I'm quite comfortable with making a fool out of myself.  Making mistakes and laughing at one's self is all good, in my book. My fear is of hurting my mare or myself.  Think "CATASTROPHIC EVENT WITH HORRENDOUS CONSEQUENCES."  As you can imagine, this has been a slight  impediment in my pursuit of riding success, and seems to be a bugaboo for a number of other riders as well.

What does a modern gal do when faced with a problem and a need for a solution?  She Googles!  One of the best sessions in the 2011 George H. Morris HorseMastership Training Sessions was presented by Jane Savoie.  Jane, in addition to her wonderful  Cross Training Your Horse series, wrote a couple of books on strategies to overcome doubt, insecurity, and fear.  With this in mind, I Googled them, and bought both. 

That Winning Feeling! and It's Not Just About the Ribbons are nightstand staples now.  Fast forward to last week's show preparation.  Following Jane's advice, I visualized my successful rounds, making "mind's eye movies" of riding to the perfect distances, well ridden lines, and successfully negotiated triples.   I tried to pay more attention to my language.  Jane says that the subconscious does not recognize the word not.  Thus, saying, "I will not fall off" becomes " I will fall off" to your goal oriented subconscious. 

I've seen this one in action -- fell off  twice at the last show right before my mare was injured and out of commission for almost a year.  Spent over a year thinking about it before I was able to show my newly fit and healthy mare again.  All I could think of was that I was resolved not to fall off again.  I don't need to tell you how this one ends.  It happened.  Twice. 

Fast forward to this past weekend's show.  I'm visualizing clean courses like a madwoman.  Breathing deeply.  Walking around looking like a whackadoo and jabbering to myself like a loon, "I AM a competent rider.  I AM calm and relaxed in competition.  I MAKE good decisions. I LOVE triple combinations, yes I do!"  All was going well until a freak accident occurred. A horse fell on top of its rider and the action stopped while the EMS arrived and offered care. 

I'm embarrassed to say that while I was concerned for the rider and the horse, I did my best not to get involved in the frantic discussions going on around us.  I needed to keep my daughter focused (she was showing at that moment) and myself from falling apart.  Several times over the hours of waiting for my division I felt myself wanting to back out.

I didn't, and was feeling a little bit proud of myself.  Warm up went well, and we went in for our first round.  Things weren't perfect, but we were getting it done until we came to the triple.  Sugar jumped a bit big into the first element, took a monster stride to the second, an oxer which apparently impressed the heck out of her.  She took an ENORMOUS leap, and somehow caught a front shoe with her hind foot and pulled it off.  The shoe went winging past our heads (you could hear the whistling as it went by) and THWACK! It landed right in front of the next element.  Not wanting to risk her, we pulled up, and my first thought was, "Hello, what other sign from God do you need to tell you this is a BAD IDEA??"

See the Shoe?
(Hint: Slightly to the Left of My Head)
Luckily, the farrier saw it happen and came out of the show office.  He pointed out his truck, and the shoe was back on and my trainer had me back on board and warming up for Class #2 before I could voice any second thoughts (she knows me pretty well and knows that giving me time to think is rarely a good thing.)  Class #2 had some rocky moments and a stop, but we got through it, with one humorous moment as I approached the triple and could be heard saying "You CAN bloody do this!"  By Class #3 we were on enough of a roll that we managed to come back with a second place.

The ribbon is nice.  However, the real victory, for me, is the way the skills learned from Jane's presentation and her books helped me manage a situation that would have left me fetal not long ago. 

Got my Big Girl Pants on now!  Next challenge? Clean rounds!


  1. So hear you on this one! What amazes me is that 3'6" looked like nothing to me as a junior, but as an adult 3' looks like a monument. I have to laugh at myself when I see my horse barely trying at that height - it's truly no big deal to him and I'm up there worrying that I might screw up and ruin him forever. I battled serious fear about a year ago after getting bucked off - check out the posts tagged "St. Christopher's" on my blog. I'm sure I could have used Jane's book, I went the long way around and just took a year to figure out I have the most reliable horse in the world, 99% of the time and I was just getting in my own way.

  2. Good job!! :) And I loooove that pic, even if it captures a slightly alarming moment! Flying shoes! :)