The Good Outweigh the Bad – by Al Dunning
Nerves are a common problem for all levels of riders. They can control us unless we learn to control them.
One of the greatest trainers of all time, Matlock Rose, was asked if he still got nervous at big shows. He answered; “Yes, If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t do it!”
Part of why we compete is for the “rush”. Controlling your nerves can make your show experience even better and raise you to a higher level. Here are some things that have helped me and some of my friends that compete:
1. Be Prepared- Don’t add unnecessary stress by not being prepared. Some riders even make a list of all of the things they need to get done prior to a show.
2. Visualize – Study and know your pattern and/or visualize your optimum run.
3. Ask yourself why you are there – You should be showing because you like it, want to be reinforced for your hard work, or want to see where you are at.
4. Have realistic expectations – Enjoy the moment, and only show your horse to the level he or she is at.
5. Focus – Think of one maneuver at a time, take baby steps, and don’t get ahead of yourself.
6. Remember how it feels to win – If you’ve been lucky enough to be successful in the past, remember that feeling. It will keep you motivated.
7. Positive self-talk – Tell yourself the truth…nobody really cares how you do but you! You CAN do this, and you will survive.
8. Watch the videos of your good runs many times, and the bad ones only once. Sometimes I’ll watch the videos of my bad runs to improve, but I will definitely watch my good runs for positive motivation.
9. Breathe – Breathing is important for relaxation, concentration, and life in general!
Remember, it is only going to take one or two good experiences to erase a bad one from your memory. So go out there and make it happen!
About the Author: Arizona horseman, Al Dunning, has owned and operated his “Almosta Ranch” since 1970. The Quarter Horse training facility is in Scottsdale, Arizona. Born in Chicago in 1950, Al’s family moved to Arizona when he was 8 years old. He began riding horses with his sisters and went on to further his talents with mentors such as Jim Paul, John Hoyt and Don Dodge. Over the years, Al developed his multi-faceted business with a focus on the development of champion horses and riders. Al married his wife Becky in 1971. Becky is a well-known horse show announcer, and co-founded America’s Horse Cares, a division of the AQHA foundation which focuses on therapeutic riding charities. The Dunnings have two children, Grady and McKenzie Parkinson. Al has been a professional trainer since 1970. His expertise in all facets of western events have elevated him to great success in the AQHA, NRHA, NRCHA, and NCHA. Al has developed a winning tradition with quarter horses that is well documented. He trains, conducts clinics, and consults for ranch development and equestrian planning. Learn more about Al and his programs at www.teamadinternational.com a membership website featuring the training methods and best practices of World Champion Al Dunning.
Previously published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 4, Issue 8