There was a whole lot of activity at the arena today. Not only is it the weekend, but the weather was decent for outdoor riding. Usually we're all alone out there in the wind and the rain, but today there were a couple of horse trailers there as well as another person who hacked in. One of the trailers belonged to my good friend that has FOUR horses to keep in shape, two of which she shows and one who is just started under saddle. And yes, she works full time too. I'm always reminded that if she can do all that I should be able to keep up with my two.
Here's the thing. I showed up just as everyone else was chatting and getting ready to pack up and go home. So there were a few people hanging out watching me ride. It made me a bit freaked out. I can count almost every one of the observers as someone I know quite well, so it wasn't even like I was riding in front of a bunch of strangers. I did end up being able to focus on what I wanted to accomplish and had an alright ride, but it was hard having all those eyes watching us. I made myself put in the same ride I had planned before I got there, denying my initial impulse to make it quick and go for a trail ride instead if everyone insisted on staying to watch us. This is a mind game I've played with myself many times. I'm the girl who gets anxious before lessons or clinics with an instructor I haven't used before. I'm also the girl who gets visibly nervous if the clinic has a large number of auditors watching me ride. Or if the ring is super crowded with riders. This is a carry over from real life where I'm not the person you'd want to ask to make a speech or demonstrate something. I don't really enjoy large social events unless I am able to chat with only a few people at a time.
In the horsey world, if I want to participate in shows, clinics, and other events, I'm going to be outside my comfort zone from time to time. What I find works for me are variations of some of the same tools I've mentioned using for Ginger.
-Breathe. Yes, I need reminding sometimes :)
-Set a task and focus on it, or, if in a clinic, focus on what the instructor is telling me. Ignore the outside influences. It's like meditating on horseback.
-Focus on what my horse is telling me. With Ginger, my worries are her worries, which in a way helps me. She'll tell me pretty fast what sort of energy I've got brewing in my head.
-In a show situation, I do best if I'm prepared. If I know the test/pattern inside and out, I'm ahead of the game. If I'm also confident my horse has the skills to handle things, we're fine.
-No excuses. Because certain show or clinic situations will make me uncomfortable, it's tempting to jump on any excuse to back out. I have to remember how good it feels to conquer such situations.
-Accept that I may not always ride my best in certain atmospheres. Don't beat myself up over it, just accept what it was and learn from it so I can improve in the future. Today, I was uncomfortable. Which means Sunday afternoon when it's busy is our new day to practice at the ring.
-A variation of the above- don't be embarrassed to admit I'm nervous. If I tell someone I usually feel better and often I get some great advice too.
-Most importantly, I just need to remember I've got an awesome partner in Ginger - she's amazing and even though she's an anxious girl herself, she's always got my back.
I wish I could say I have a perfect handle on it, but I don't. Today was an off day that reminded me I need to practice the mental game just as much as the physical one if I want to be prepared for show season next spring.
Random cute picture of the day (and she's clean-bonus!)