Yes – I owe you all an update on Grace, Joe and my life in general. Grace loves her new life teaching lessons and seems to appreciate not being asked to be a show horse. I am in love with Joe – I just took him to a schooling show this weekend and he was a superstar. We still need to figure each other out and have work to do at home but it was such a great experience to bring a show horse to the horse show. I was able to warm him up and lope him in the crowded indoor warm up pen – something I’ve never been able to do with Grace without her exploding from the tension. This got me thinking about show ring confidence – where does it come from?
If you’ve read my blog in the past, especially when I posted consistently (I promise I’m close to getting back at it) you know that I have struggled with show ring confidence for years. I rode hunter/jumpers when I was younger and was continually overfaced at shows. My nemeses were wide 3’6” oxers. Why in the world did I think I could handle them at shows when I was not confident over them at home? It only took a few crashes for me to start to fear the show ring. I walked away from jumping, started riding Western and took the fear into my rail classes. My smart little mare tuned into my show ring tension and would take over doing her own thing, which only led to more tension on my part. I have sought out breathing techniques, calming supplements, phycology, and endless searches on the Interwebs. Last year I excelled at shows where I was the big fish in the small pond, but when we visited the big pond all the tension came back and the rides were downright embarrassing. I’m not sure that I was ready to show at that level, but then again the only way to show at that level is to actually show at that level.
I know where all the fear comes from but would like to know where show ring confidence comes from. This thought was bouncing around in my head last week when I gave my first customer facing webinar at work. I happen to love public speaking and this was a subject that I was incredibly comfortable with. I walked a group of new customers through the basic set up of their software. It is something I’ve done over 1,000 times and have said that I can do it in my sleep. The webinar went off exactly how I had anticipated, the customer response was very positive along with my co-workers who attended. It left me wanting do to more of the same work. I’ll be honest I got a downright rush from it. I will be holding that webinar weekly for some time and I have another coming up at the end of the month. I am not as well versed in the next webinar subject matter but I know I need to walk into it with the same level of confidence so I fully intend to spend the next two weeks prepping.
But isn’t that what I do when I ride every day? At home I work my horse though a series of exercises to get them strong enough for the show pen. With Joe I work to keep him straight, get his shoulder up and put myself in the correct position for him to be successful. I did all of that with Grace, but when I let her go in the show pen if I had any tension at all the work at home was not there to fall back on. This weekend when I had Joe in the warm up pen I asked him to lope. The lope he gave me was slower, deeper and more in the ground that anything he’s given me at home. The grin on my face said it all – I was finally sitting on a big girl horse! I told Sarah that I had no clue how to ride this lope. She said “what, the no squealing and bucking?” Exactly! Joe and I were passed on the rail in our class at the lope by more than one horse. I had no idea that was possible for me. Joe and I still need to find the balance of me letting him go and helping him out.
I find Western Pleasure to be an interesting discipline, we prep the horses by doing all kinds of exercises to get them strong enough to go slow on a loose rein, but at some point need to also let them get comfortable on that loose rein and still have control of the body. I supposed that is where my “leg” that Sarah is always talking about comes into play. That again for me will need to become second nature before I go to it in the show pen. The last thing my body wants to do when the horse feels like it is going too fast on a loose rein is adding leg. Makes sense to my brain, body just still isn’t onboard. When I can do it in my sleep then I will be ready.