Mary Jane Brown sailing over fences in the late 70s.
Julie Hensely competing at our April 2017 event in Oroville, WA at Frontier Ranches.
Throughout my horse career and life, I've encountered my fair share of fences. But if you ask anyone who knows me well, they will tell you that I quickly forget the bad and remember the good. Life is too short and precious to waste time and energy worrying about the knocked over poles when there are so many victories!
I was reminded of this more than ever when I went to Oroville, WA for a horsemanship clinic at Frontier Ranches. This is always one of my favorite events of the year because I get to see all of our friends there, especially Julie. Julie is a wonderful horsewoman and a terrific person. She takes instruction with appreciation and makes adjustments as asked. She trained her handsome palomino gelding, Hotrod, and is one of our best riders--demonstrating perfect circles, transitions and stops. Julie is also blind.
Julie lost her sight in a horse accident in her early 20s but that didn't deter her from enjoying her horse and continuing to learn. Years later, not only did she train her horse, but with a little help from friends' voices, she is able to load, saddle and do all the regular things that come with taking care of him. She doesn't waste energy complaining or going on about how she can't do something that is asked of her. Instead, she adjusts and problem solves until we all find a way for her to be able to do whatever the given maneuver requires. She is so grateful and full of joy. I'm sure she has her ups and downs like anyone, but she chooses to smile over the fences of life! What a great example to all of us!
"Being blind, I could just ride my horse. But then I think, why not do more?" Julie Hensley
Even the Herd Boss had to find her game face--circa early 1970s...
Competition brings out a little something different in everyone. I see some riders who are propelled to higher levels and some who find the same pressure to be an impediment. Regardless of where you find yourself in the spectrum of performers, here are some tips to help you find "your" game face...
Plan for adjustments not perfection... Many times riders are so intent on achieving a perfect run, that when something doesn't go accordingly they are surprised and lose focus. All of your hours of riding and practicing have prepared you for this moment. Relax and adjust appropriately. By focusing on making the right adjustments instead of perfection, you will take the pressure off and recover much more quickly when something does go awry.
Breathe... As you probably already know, breathing is essential for your brain to function properly. If you're like the rest of us, we need all the brain power we can get when remembering a pattern and riding our horses. Breathing doesn't take any supernatural ability, but it will make a huge difference in your performance. If you tend to get nervous in your competition runs, have a good plan for breathing. Focusing on your breathing will help you and your horse remain calm and ready to work. Special Tip: Be sure to exhale on your stops!
Find your Game Face... While taking tips from some of your successful fellow competitors' warm up routines is a smart thing to do, you still have to find out what works for you. My daughter used to sing to herself (sometimes out-loud) getting ready to compete in breakaway roping. It helped her hone in her focus and energy levels. Some people need to find a quiet place to visualize, some find that visiting with folks leading up to competition helps them stay relaxed. Figure out what works for you and do it. If you're the person who needs the quiet, let you friends know so that they give you some space in the moments before your run. If you're a "chatty Cathy" type, find your pals who like to gab to ease their nerves as well. Or ask someone who isn't up or has time to come sit with you before your run.
Keep it all in perspective... Come game day, it is what is and it ain't what it ain't. You've put in the amount of work you've put in. You're riding the horse that you're riding, and you're doing what you're doing. The course is set and whoever's there, is whoever's there. Everyone enjoys winning, but at the end of the day your experience is what really lasts. Ride your ride, be a cheerful, respectful competitor and friend to all you encounter from the office staff to the person resetting the rope on course. Furthermore, like my dad always said, "Take good care of your horse and he'll take good care of you." Life doesn't hinge on whether you place first or last. Often people forget who won what very quickly, but what they tend to remember are the kind people they met and the ones who weren't so kind. Be sure to fall into the first category. Enjoy the blessing of getting to do what you love right along side folks who go through the same nerves and hard work that you do.
"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." -Helen Keller
Herd Boss Logic
Enjoy some tips and tid bits straight from the Herd Boss and her team in this special blog.