Guest post by Lindsay.
It’s a new year; it’s time to turn over a new leaf, gain new perspective. It’s time to take control of your riding: MENTALLY. Riding is a very physical sport, but many people underestimate the mental acuity necessary to achieve success. As a trainer, I address various “noggin’ issues” among riders: distraction, fear, confidence, etc. I could devote many posts to each mental challenge we face as riders, but today, I would like to address the influence of gossip and barn drama on success in the ring.
Every barn I have ever ridden/trained/lessoned/
1. Taylor Swift is right. Haters are gonna hate, hate, hate. There will always be people that live to bring other people down. There will be people that are jealous or condescending or just plain mean. While it may feel like these people are singling you out; remember, they are not. They will talk about everyone – you are just the target in front of them. Before you enter the ring, for a lesson or in a show, acknowledge them in your mind. Know that while some one may be rooting for you to fail, that you can rise above. Despite the “haters,” know that you are a strong, determined and dedicated rider. And then, just let them fade into the background.
2. Don’t ride for them. Some people use the negativity as fuel to propel them towards their goals. That’s fine, just make sure you are riding for you. Don’t let negative comments or gossip force you to put extra pressure on yourself. You don’t need to be perfect. Even professionals miss a distance! My dad, though he is not a horse person, gave me the best piece of competitive advice. He said: “Ride to win. Don’t ride to not make a mistake.” If you ride to prove other people wrong, you are riding to not make a mistake. If you ride to win, you are riding for yourself. You know that you might make a mistake, but you are going to go for it. When you ride for yourself, you are free to enjoy each moment, even the mistakes.
3. Money doesn’t matter. Yes, riding is an expensive sport. Yes, the girl with the triple figure horse is very lucky, but she makes mistakes, too. Whether you have the most expensive horse in the barn or you are a working student hoping for catch rides, when you are on the horse in the ring, money doesn’t matter. The horse has no idea if you are wearing brand new breeches or not. You are in the ring to work on your skills and the horse’s skills. People in the horse world make a big deal about money; I know this is a very touchy subject. If you have the money and love top quality things, then go for it!! But, don’t look down on those without financial means. If you are working your tushy off to afford a lesson or a set of second hand show clothes, then more power to you! But, remember to enjoy your time on the horse and stop looking at what everyone else has. (Full disclosure: Growing up, I was in the “middle” in terms of money. I know what it’s like to be jealous of the girl who took 3 horses to Florida. I also know what it is like to have some one sneer at me for being able to show every weekend.)
4. Keep your focus in the ring. As a trainer, I don’t care who walked up to the fence to watch your lesson. I don’t care if some one started the tractor for no good reason. I don’t care if we are at a show and your old barn is there. If there is a safety concern or they are interfering with my instruction, I will say something. Otherwise, you shouldn’t care either. Every time you step in the ring, your horse deserves your undivided attention. Focus on your horse. Focus on your ride. The more you think “inside leg, outside hand” or “tighten up my tummy” or “eyes up” the better you will ride, the better your horse will go, the more you will get lost in the moment, and the happier you will be with your ride.
I know these tips don’t address how to handle barn drama on the cross ties or in the tack room. I know that in the digital age, barn drama transcends the physical limitations of the barn. My advice for barn drama in general is: stay out of it and be nice to everyone. If you don’t want some one to talk about you, then don’t talk about them. (Note: much easier said than done!) It is up to the trainer/barn manager/farm owner to set an example of a gossip free environment. If all else fails remind yourself of why you are at the barn: To ride, learn, grow, and to love your horse!