Having a Confident Self Image

Do you believe in yourself? The answer to this question will effect your performance in the show pen more than you could ever imagine. What does your self image look like?IMG_0018

Having a strong, positive self image may not guarantee that you and your horse will lay down a 74 every time you ride to the herd. There are too many outside variables involved in our sport such as cattle, weather, herd help, not to mention being judged by another human being. However, I can absolutely promise you that if you lack confidence in yourself and your horse, you will fail. That may sound harsh, but rest assured it is not the end. You can choose to be confident and reinvent your self image. The idea may feel silly at first, but it all comes down to what kind of competitor do you want to be….mediocre or exceptional.


William James was a pioneer in American psychology. During the late 1800’s, James was one of the founding fathers of the Harvard Psychology Department. He said “People tend to become what they think of themselves.” I love this! If you want to be a consistent competitor in the cutting pen, you must think of yourself as a force when you walk to the herd. If you want to be calm, cool, and collected when the pressure is high. Visualize an intense run. See yourself showing your horse with confidence and grace. Believe that you are equipped and capable of reaching your goals. Think of yourself as a champion and remind yourself that you are riding an incredibly talented horse. You may be wondering if that is all you have to do to overcome one’s nerves and win your class? A confident self image does not guarantee that you will never loose a cow or have a bad run. As they say, that’s just cutting. But take this into account, there is a distinct relationship between negative thinking and failure.

Your self image can be fragile. It needs to be nurtured and protected. Your subconscious is responsible for housing your self image. Every thought that you have about yourself or your abilities gets filed in your subconscious. These thoughts are what develop how you instinctually think or feel about yourself. A thought that is charged with emotion, either positive or negative, will make more of a lasting impression on your subconscious. Your responsibility to your self image is to monitor what kind of thoughts make the biggest impact on your subconscious. The way you use your mind, will help determine the amount of success and joy you experience.

Your horse is trained to rate cattle, adjusting his speed and intensity in order to control a cow and optimize his performance. In a sense, we need to learn to rate our thoughts. When you find yourself reflecting on a lesson or a run at a show, look for specific things to be positive about. Perhaps your cuts were really smooth or you kept your knees turned away from your horse. Maybe you controlled your first two cows and worked in the middle of the pen. Celebrate your successes. Savor the way it feels when the different components of working or showing your horse come together. Emotionally emphasize the positive thoughts. In turn, you have to learn to become emotionally detached from bad experiences. Learn from them and then move on. Protect yourself from getting upset over bad runs or mistakes.

Guard your self image from negativity and pessimism. Build your confidence by focusing on your strengths. Be proud of your horse. Trust your trainer. Relive your accomplishments. Visualize your goals becoming reality. Enjoy the ride!


*Thank you Haylee Lynn and Baila Conmigo for the personal photos.

*Photo of William James, Wikipedia

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