It was a typical horse show Sunday morning. I was entered in the first class of the day, and since we were short on turn back help, I had also agreed to be turn back. I got up at my planned time, fed and watered Breezy, went back to the trailer and made coffee, got dressed and ready, and got Breezy tacked up. My plan was to have a short warm up-Breezy was pretty tired from showing in 9 classes the day before. I made one last trip back to the truck to get my coffee-since I had forgotten in it the truck and wanted to bring it to the arena with me. As I walking back to the barn to get Breezy, I took a sip of coffee, and the lid on the travel mug fell off.
Coffee spilled all over the front of my favorite purple and white show shirt, and down the front of my jeans.
Sometimes it is the littlest thing that puts us over the edge. For a minute I just stared down at my shirt. Then I checked the time. The show was supposed to start in 20 minutes.
I wanted to cry. All of the overwhelm, all of the anxiety, all of the stresses of life-the job and farm and family things, all at once it seemed really, really heavy-and it was all threatening to take over. That little voice in my head , you know, the negative one we all have, said “Better go the the office and scratch, you’ll never be ready in time now. For that matter, you better just scratch all your classes and go home, you aren’t ready to show in the cattle classes anyway. You are an impostor, look at you, a mess over a little spilled coffee. Someone with real mental toughness, real grit wouldn’t be crying in the parking lot. What are you even doing here-you shouldn’t be here. You aren’t good enough to be here. Go home.”
I was about three seconds away from becoming a crying, hot mess in the parking lot of the show grounds. Ya’ll, it took every ounce of will power I had to take a deep breath. Then another. And another.
Then I got into my truck, drove to my trailer, and quick changed into dry clothes. All the while I was chanting in my head the positive affirmation that I had come up with when I was prepping for this show, “Obstacles make me and Breezy stronger. I get gritty and go after my goals.”
Now, to be honest, when I originally came up with this positive affirmation, it was for the handy ranch horse (trail) class, and it was intended to help me focus on the literal obstacles in that class-but it certainly worked in this case too!
When I got to the barn, there was 10 minutes before the show started. As I bridled Breezy, I focused on keeping my breathing slow and deep, to stand up straight and tall with the posture of confidence. I wanted to make sure that I was projecting calmness to him, even though on the inside, I was struggling to use every mental skill to maintain my calm appearance. I led him to the arena, and stepped up. My thoughts now were on my job-get Breezy warmed up. Easy trot circles, a little bending, check the brakes. Breathe, slow hands, focus on the right here, right now. Sit back, smile, loosen those shoulders. Everything else can wait.
It didn’t take long to get back into a positive mood and mindset, riding around the warm up arena with my friends. As it turned out, there was some technical difficulties with the timer and speaker system, so the show started late. I had plenty of time to deal with a wardrobe change.
I am so glad that I didn’t scratch the first class-Breezy and I did the best we’ve ever done in the Herd Work, and had a nice, clean run. It ended up being a really fun day, riding, working cattle and spending time with friends. If I had let the overwhelm take over, I would have missed it all.
Mental skills take work to become habits. They are simple to learn, but they are not easy to put into practice. However, they really do work! If you practice these simple skills ahead of time so that they are habits, then when nerves, anxiety, overwhelm and fear start to take over, you know that you have the ability to overcome it.
You are good enough. Try new things with your horse. Go after those big horsemanship dreams. Accept that there will be tough times, that is just a part of the journey, and they make you stronger. You’ve got this.