We all know that feeling that can creep over us. It can be at jackpots, rodeos, or a year end finals. Being a little nervous is understandable, but for several years I fought nerves that got so bad I thought I may pass out. I’m a first generation barrel racer. No one in my family rode. I had to reach out to others with experience for help. I am a tough person, admitting I had nerves was not easy. Once I recognized the fact that nerves were causing me to make mistakes I realized I needed to rein them in. Here are 3 things that have helped me control my nerves:
Practice focus in practice.
When I work my horses I always finish by walking through a few times. I don’t want to mindlessly walk through. I want to walk through with extreme focus picturing a perfect run. Positioning hands properly, having my body correct, and my weight in stirrups with heals down. I use to struggle with other things popping up in my mind when I was just walking. I have trained myself to walk through thinking only about what I’m doing each moment in the pattern. I want to tune every other thought and circumstance out. By doing each motion I want to do in a run I build muscle memory. This also allows my to do the same at a race or rodeo. Everything fades away, I focus and am able to think better.
This is import. No negative words, thoughts, or people allowed on race day. Do not talk about being nervous or say your worried about about hitting a barrel, not doing something right, etc. When you say it you will end up thinking about it. Only speak positive things about yourself, your horse, and others. This keeps a positive attitude and helps you focus on what you need to do in your run.Rather than saying “I hope I don’t hit a barrel”, train yourself to say what you need to do to have a good barrel, “I need to slide my hand down on my rein, get my horses nose, and drive to my spot!” Retrain your mind to think about what actions you need to make for the results you want.
Remember that a Run Doesn't Define You.
A hit barrel does not make you or you horse a “barrel hitter”. Bad runs do not qualify you as a bad rider/trainer. Do not worry about who saw a bad run or what they may think of you. Everyone has an off day, it comes with the game we play. What does define you is how you handle a bad run, how you treat your horse following that run, and how you treat those around you win or loose. That is the bigger picture. Sitting in the alley knowing that no matter what happens it does NOT mean I’m a “failure” or that I am “not good enough” gives me peace and always eases my pre-run jitters. There is more that defines you than just a run.