Do you get nervous before you show your horse? I think everyone does on some level. I used to swear that I never got nervous. I bragged that ice water ran through my veins. If that was the case, why would I fall apart in the show pen? There were times that I couldn’t recall any of the details of my run. Truthfully, I never felt the “butterflies” in my stomach, increased heart rate, or profusely sweaty arm pits. My nerves presented themselves as over-the-top intensity. I was so uptight that my jaw muscles would hurt after competing for 2.5 minutes! Why is it so hard to just stay calm when we ride to the herd?
If you are reading this right now, you are a competitor. You want to win. You want to be the best or at the very least, perform to the best of your abilities. But as we all know, it is so hard to quiet your emotions as we face the judge, our trainer, our peers, and our own expectations. Cutting is a very passionate sport, believe it or not! First of all, we are performing individually. Our one teammate is a one thousand pound animal that we undoubtedly love and in many cases admire. Then take into account our trainer, who works so hard to help us improve. Every one of us wants to make him or her proud. Lastly, we are completely dedicated to this sport. We breath, eat, and sleep cutting. It’s in our soul. So yes, we may have been known to get a little emotional before, during, and after a run. I will never forget what Mr. Bill Riddle told me. The NCHA Hall of Fame Trainer said “The first casualty to emotion is reason.” That resonated with me and made me focus on learning to control my emotions the show pen. I came up with the following four fundamentals to teach myself to just stay CALM.
Composed – Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Let your body language communicate that you are prepared, professional, and focused.
Assertive – Ride to the herd with confidence. Tell yourself, “I am sitting on the best horse, have the best help, and am the best rider at the show. I am about to make that judge’s day!
Loose – Instead of feeding your horse tension through your body, stay relaxed. The slower you go, the faster you get there. Reassure your horse and impress the judge with your ability to stay relaxed and fluid.
Mindful – Be fully present, aware of each moment of your run, and conscious of what you and your horse are doing….without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around you.
Try to incorporate these keys to calmness into your next run. I believe they are essential to controlling our emotions, having a presence of mind, and emitting confidence in the show pen.
To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.
Photo Credit – Devlyn Drake