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.