Keep your chin up! Literally and figuratively riders need to keep their chin up. Judges can tell an exhibitor’s demeanor from the slant of the rider’s head. Confident riders look ahead. Insecure riders often look down frequently or focus on the horse’s head. The eyes forewarn the judge of corrections just made or convey the concern for danger ahead. None the less, downcast eyes tip your hand and alert the judge to your apprehension. Judges will look elsewhere for their winner.
Showing up often sounds self explanatory – the more you do something the better you get. It sounds both easy and obvious, but how many of us actually do it? I am new to writing. If I do not write often, as in every day, I cannot expect to get better. If you are trying to establish a new habit, as in holding your hands closer to the horse’s neck for the equitation, you will need to practice often.
Research varies on how long it takes to break an old habit replacing it with new behavior. One thing all science confirms is that the more complex the behavior, the more time it will take to replace the old habit. If you are new to riding, it is easy to learn to ride with good fundamental position. That is why it is so important to find a good instructor early. But it is very difficult to change a position that has become natural but is incorrect!
I love it when a student says they just didn’t have time to practice showmanship or ride without stirrups or to go to the gym. Next thing out of their mouth is usually something about the latest Bachelorette episode, a funny picture someone posted on Facebook, how long the line was at Starbucks or the great movie they saw with friends over the weekend.
Funny thing is, we all make time for the things that matter most to us. Whether it’s watching your favorite show, going to the gym or doing a couple of laps without your irons, the fact of the matter is, we do what matters most to us. I am not saying you should not watch TV, go to the movies or stop at Starbucks. But there is a correlation between the time and effort contributed and the success of the project.
In 1982 I quit school at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and went to work for Lynn Salvatori Palm. Two years of undergraduate classes yielded passing grades but certainly less than stellar marks. My heart was just not that into it. Riding horses consumed my every thought leaving little time for reading textbooks or class preparation. As you can imagine, my father was furious. Disappointed in the decision, he vowed not to pay for any of my future needs, hoping this would keep me in college. It did not. But I would return… Two years after I left to work for Lynn, I moved to Argyle, Texas, hung my shingle outside a 32 stall barn and enrolled in the University of North Texas in Denton. Texas was the land of longhorn steer, the Dallas Cowboys and every great western pleasure horse trainer known to our industry. I was a single young woman riding hunt seat horses where ropers ruled, halter champions were born and bred and membership was required for entry into every establishment, including a bar! Continue reading
A friend and fellow trainer once told me “you ride into the pen looking like second place”. He was referring to my showing in hunter under saddle classes at big shows, such as the Congress or World Show. At first I took offense to his words, got angry and thought he was just plain mean. But after ditching my defensive response, I realized he was right.
It was not easy information to swallow. Of course I wanted to win – every time. Why else would I enter the show ring if not to win? After all, I did win; just not at the big ones. I always felt like the underdog; under horsed, underfunded, un-marketed. In my heart, I knew I was good. In fact, I was good enough for second place.