The Mindset of a Champion

5 tips to stay focused during Championship Season

Things are about to heat up in the competitive world to match our record setting temperatures. Championship season is in full swing, with the AQHA Youth World Championship and NSBA World Championship taking place this month, and as NRHA and NRCHA futurity hopefuls begin campaigning their young horses. This is an exciting time for competitors to see how the fruits of their labors from the months and years prior will shake out in the arena. While having the horse ready to compete is vitally important to success, the rider’s mindset is what will give them the winning edge. Here are five tips to adopt the mindset of a Champion going into Championship season.

  1. Be Prepared Going into the Event

We have all heard the age-old adage, “proper preparedness prevents poor performance.” It may be overused, but it couldn’t be truer. Preparing both the horse and rider for competition before they step foot into the arena is the best way to increase the odds of the performance going well. Prepare physically to ensure that the demands required in the run can be executed with minimal effort. For example, if a showmanship pattern calls for an extended trot, this will be much less daunting if you have been running regularly prior to the event. If you haven’t, anxiety will build when you see this maneuver and prevent you from focusing on the little details of the pattern that could help set you apart. Prepare mentally by visualizing each maneuver going well and being performed to your highest ability. This will make it feel second nature when you step up to the start cone.

  1. Stick to a Routine at the Event

Going to a horse show is exciting. It is easy to get carried away and lose track of time, and the next thing you know, it is midnight before you head to bed. As hard as it may be, try to stick to your normal schedule in terms of sleep and eating. This will help your body to feel its best and not be sluggish throughout the day. Riding in the middle of the night is common during a championship show, so counter that by sticking as close to your normal routine as possible the rest of the time. A routine will also help to minimize decision fatigue and allow your mental energy to be saved for your time on your horse and in the show pen.

  1. Be Prepared to Enhance Your Bounce Back

When we step into the pen, we all dream of a flawless run, where your horse is completely synced up to your every thought and all goes to plan. However, anyone who has been showing horses long enough has quickly learned that this is very rarely the case. This is where the “bounce back” comes into play. The bounce back is how quickly you can recover from a poor maneuver back to a positive maneuver. This is key in events with multiple maneuvers, because while you may get a minus in one box, you can still plus the rest of your run and get your name high on the leader board. However, if you are unable to bounce back from the one bad maneuver, it can quickly lead to a spiral of more negative maneuvers. Take each obstacle as they come and treat each as their own. If you make a mistake, pick yourself back up and work on making the following parts of your run the best they can be.

  1. Trust Your Instincts

In the performance arena, things happen fast. There is little time to fully think through a situation. You must be able to react and rely on your instincts. Instincts are created through experience in the practice pen and the show pen. Each time you step into the pen, allow yourself to trust yourself. If it doesn’t go well, take it as a learning opportunity to improve your instincts at home and to be better for the next time you step into the show pen.

  1. Remember Your Why

Remembering your why may sound like the easiest thing to do, but when you are on day eight of 100+ degree weather in Tulsa while sleep deprived, it may not be such an easy thing to pinpoint. Take a few minutes before the show and write down your why in one short sentence. Put this somewhere that you can reference daily at the show to remind you why you are there. Your why can be as simple as spending time with your horse or spending time with friends. If you can remember why you put yourself through this, it will bring it all into perspective and make the experience an enjoyable one.

Championship season may only officially crown a select few individuals, but you can be a champion of your own goals if you frame your mind correctly. Good luck this season and remember that enjoying your horse and enjoying those around you on this journey are what make any victory all the more worth it.

By Lauren Stanley