Competition Can Be a Positive Addition to Any Sport
Competition can be a positive addition to any sport. Competition creates drive, humility, discipline, and passion. Being successful in competition takes talent, hard work, confidence, resources, passion and attitude. I have always loved the saying “practice like you have never won; compete like you have never lost.” One cannot always control their talent and resources, but a person can control their hard work and most definitely their attitude.
I have been able to witness equestrian competition from many different viewpoints; a competitor, a coach, a trainer, a show mom and a judge. While a horse show is built to reward the most talented horses and riders in each class, most of the classes are still subjectively judged. Everyone would like to end the day with a blue ribbon but it can be difficult to beat the higher quality horse or the more experienced rider. Your hard work will make the difference as you prepare to compete, but your attitude and confidence will go a long way to help you and your horse achieve better results in the show ring.
Be prepared before walking into the competition ring. Know your course or what is expected of you in each class. Read the rules! Ensure your equipment is correct and your horse is properly prepared. Riders who are reciting their course as they walk in, wearing the wrong equipment, not following the rules or have a horse who should have a bit more prep are not generally going to win the class.
Be confident. Putting yourself out there, alone, in the ring can be daunting for most people. Remember that judges are rooting for every rider to have an excellent day! We would much rather sort through the quality of each horse or rider than sort through the mistakes. We want you to succeed. I have yet to work with a judge who has an agenda for a particular horse, trainer or rider to win. A confident rider will instill confidence in their horse and increase their chances of having a successful round. A confident rider demands the judge’s attention. Confidence can be hard, and there are many tools to help with individual sports psychology. Seek out ways, or professionals, that can assist you.
Watch your attitude. Regardless if the day goes great or much worse, your attitude towards yourself, your trainer, your parent and especially your horse speaks volumes about the rider you are and the future you will have in this sport. Victors should be ecstatic and super thankful to their horse and those that helped them get there. And those not so victorious should not be too far from those same reactions. The horse did not choose to compete, and even when they have a bad day, your frustrations should never be taken out on the horse. Everyone, at every level, loses a class and has bad days. I have sat in the judge’s box while our country’s best hunter riders have pop chipped right in front of me. It happens to everyone! A rider’s attitude can leave an impression on judges, trainers, parents, owners looking for potential riders and many more. Make sure you leave a good impression, regardless of how your day went!
Every day, whether competing or not, spent with a horse is a gift. Have passion for your sport and for your horse. Practice like no one else and control the things you can: your hard work and your attitude!