What is the first thing you teach a colt when they go in for training?
Usually, in some form of approach, it’s how to handle their emotions.
You start off by teaching them how to handle fear. Instead of fight or flight, they learn to pause and think through the situation placed in front of them. Any good horse trainer will tell you that these are the most crucial steps to starting a colt because it lays the foundation for how they will learn and approach everything else for the rest of their life. If we know how important teaching a horse how to handle their fear is, then why do we not learn how to handle fear ourselves?
But I’m not afraid to Barrel Race…
Sure, you may not be afraid to barrel race, but you may also not realize that fear isn’t always something terrifying. That’s just one type of fearful emotion. There are many forms of fear and there are many emotions that show up in our life that keep us from performing our best. This is why I’m breaking down how these emotions may creep into your program and performance without you even realizing it!
Heads up…It may be a long read but I promise it’s worth every bit!
WHAT IS FEAR?
“an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” -Oxford Languages
Basically, we create these beliefs based on our perceptions of our surroundings in order to keep us safe. We are given the ability to have dynamic imaginations which allow us to visualize outcomes and react accordingly. However, most of the time we allow our brains to create this false reality without ever realizing that we have the power to change the script. We react to our emotions vs. think through and act off of our ability.
An undisciplined mind can make you a prisoner in your own life. You have to be aware of how your mind works so you can debunk false beliefs and visualize what you want to happen.
THE TOP ACCOMPLICES OF FEAR: Forms of fear that control your performance
– DOUBT & WORRIES: I have a saying that goes: “The second you doubt yourself is the second you lose the race.” Faith and fear cannot be in the same room together, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s like oil and water. So when you allow doubt to creep into your thoughts, it robs your faith and abuses your confidence.
If you’re competing on a new horse, or it’s their first time running, or the first time in a certain arena, it’s natural to question and wonder if this is going to be successful. This type of thinking will help you anticipate and prepare for what could go wrong but it doesn’t set you up for what could go right.
Assess what could happen but leave doubt out of it. Your horse feeds off of your energy 10X more than you may realize.
Let me give you an example: I did hunter jumping when I was little and I learned that when I hesitated even the slightest bit, the horse would refuse the jump. I was giving them the signal that I’m not confident in what’s on the other side of this jump and I’m not sure it’s safe. So what do they naturally do? They duck the jump. I had to literally push my confidence over the jump or as we would call it “Fake it until you make it” just to give my horse the confidence to not hesitate and continue moving forward. Moving forward…isn’t that important in Barrel racing?!
The same goes for horses who want to anticipate, duck the turn, or even refuse the alleyway. Look within yourself first and nail down where you’re doubting yourself or hesitating. It could be before you even step on the horse.
– ANXIETY: Anxiety is the body’s response to stress or fearful outcomes. Rodeo is a game of uncontrollable variables, and the prize goes to who has the resilience to not be thrown off track. If you focus on the things you can’t control, you allow room for stress and anxiety, and we already know this is not good for you or the horse.
Signs of anxiety/stress can be felt through tightness in the hips, shoulders, and or neck. It can be through physical illness, and also through mood swings. Pay attention to where you feel stress and understand this is the body telling you to check in with yourself. Where and why do you feel stressed? If it’s something out of your control, focus on what you can control. Such as you can’t control the ground, you can control how you place your horse. You can’t control traffic, you can control how you deal with it.
If it’s out of your control, have faith that what is for you won’t pass you by, have the confidence you will be protected, and don’t waste any more of your precious time dwelling on things that are out of your grasp anyways. Only focus on what you can control and the outcome you want to have. KEEP IT SIMPLE
– NERVES: Nerves are tricky little devils. They like to make you feel like you’re about to confront the scariest thing of your life and they tend to get worse the more you allow your imagination to run wild. Start viewing nerves as your body’s preparation for battle. You are morphing into this superhero mode and you’re feeling the energy flow through your body and it’s preparing you to operate at your highest ability.
Because in reality, that’s what they are… they’re your body’s reflexes preparing you for fight or flight mode.
HOW TO COMBAT NERVES: BREATHE!!!!!!!! (Check out this blog post for why breathing is important!) Next, keep your thoughts simple.
Ex: When I go to compete in a performance in a coliseum, or I’m down to the short-go round, I don’t think about how big of a task I have in front of me. I know all I have to do is go in there and make a run. Have fun and keep moving forward. I keep my “To-Do List” short and simple. Unless you’re the kind of person who needs to be pumped up, then by all means put some pressure on the situation.
– PROCRASTINATION: When you’re avoiding something, you’re really afraid of something. Afraid to start, afraid to confront, afraid to move on…etc. Recognize when you’re procrastinating and dig in deeper to find out when & why you’re doing so. This is a good way to discover what you’re truly afraid of. For me, it’s usually when I have to start something new and I don’t know how to tackle it. I recognize this so instead of wasting more time avoiding it I dive in and start. I don’t put any pressure on myself to get it right the first time around, I just know I have to face it head-on and take one step forward. PSA: usually when you take that first step forward, the next steps start to fall into place. The hardest part is deciding to get on the horse.
– TRAUMA/ PAST EXPERIENCE: When you are afraid of something from a past experience or from trauma, it’s no wonder you’re afraid to branch out again! You’re trying to keep yourself alive! I have good news, just because it happened that time doesn’t mean it will always be painful. You can move on and you can push past whatever experiences are holding you back. I can go into more detail but honestly, I’ll let the doctors do the talking. I highly recommend reading this book called “Code to Joy”.
This helps release the limiting beliefs you have taken with you after trauma, injury, or past experiences.
GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
I talked about how to release limiting beliefs in my recent blog post: Overcoming Competition Anxiety. I’m going to use the same tools here. When you feel any of the emotions above get to the root of the source. Write down your thoughts or beliefs and then go through each thought and ask yourself is this true? If not, then eliminate it and let it go. If you can’t let it go, give it a new positive outlook.
-(FEAR) Blowing past a turn:
–(Truth option 1) Is this really likely to happen? My horse has never given me a reason to think it will blow past it. Let this belief go and send your dragon flying in. There is only one way to find out how hard you can send them into a turn and that’s by setting the nitro boost at full power. So this fear is false. Let it go and move on!
-(Truth option 2). My horse has blown a turn before so it gives me a reason to anticipate it happening again. Here is the real truth, you have the control to keep your horse moving forward. You know how to fix it. Blowing past a turn isn’t always bad as long as you keep them moving forward in the direction you want. Sometimes a horse needs to learn to adjust to the speed and just because they blew by the turn once doesn’t mean they will do it again.
– Truth to focus on: You know your job well enough to keep moving them forward and get them back on track.
– Your new belief: I set my horse up for success and easily keep my horse on track. I have confidence in adding speed for every turn. My only job is to keep them moving forward.
For more ways to eliminate deeper issues from trauma, injuries, or experiences I highly recommend the short book: Code to Joy. A step-by-step guide on releasing beliefs that hold you back.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I want you to take away from this post is that your fear is a LIMITING BELIEF but doesn’t make it true. Experiencing fear can be a good thing if you understand how it works. The good thing about it is that it moves you in some form of way and it highlights areas within yourself you need to work on. Movement is necessary in life. So when you feel any of the listed emotions above, recognize them and know that they serve a purpose but they are designed to come and go. They are not a part of who you are and they are not something to hold onto for very long. For example, You experience anxiety, you do not have anxiety; it is not who you are.
“For you were not given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” -Timothy 1:7
You are a freaking powerhouse designed to do AMAZING WORK and accomplish UNIMAGINABLE feats. THIS IS YOUR POWER! You were designed to adapt and overcome. OWN IT! If you want to set arena records you have to step on the horse knowing you’re going to send it, no matter what. If you want to win big races and rodeos you cannot afford to let fear lead the way, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO HESITATE!!!!!
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