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Controlling Performance Jitters

PHP 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV

Performance jitters, a fluttering feeling in the pit of onesí stomach right before a test or performance, otherwise known as butterflies. You canít eat, you sweat, and at times your body and mind canít seem to function together. What can we do? Well, I have never been able to completely calm them, but I have learned to use their energy to get me more focused.

A great way to quiet some butterflies is being prepared. Knowing that you have done all you can do, prior to a competition, will give you confidence. First, plan ahead for the competition; start training and conditioning months ahead (depending where you are in your training determines how far in advance to start). Second, a checklist is very helpful to make sure your trailer is packed with everything you will need for the show. Third, have your animal completely groomed prior to leaving for the show. Fourth, at the show organize your time; plan out time to exercise, feed and groom your horse depending on the order in which you compete. Make time for yourself. Be diligent to make time to relax, eat, and get a full nights sleep. If you need to memorize a course or pattern take time away from everything to get that done. Contrary to what some believe, donít watch your competitors. You need to concentrate on the best you can do. Fifth, do not enter every class you are eligible to compete in. Choose classes that fit your specific goals. Donít use a shotgun approach to winning a ribbon. This will only rob you of the time you need to prepare for the classes you are truly trying to succeed in.

One other way to remove anxiety is to eliminate the pressure of winning. Know where you are competitively. If you or your horse are a novice donít expect to win a blue ribbon but concentrate on achieving a personal victory. Every ride has its victories and failures. At the end of your class write down what went well and what you need to work on. Rejoice in the victories and learn from the failures. By continually improving on the weaknesses of each ride you will one day be a champion. If you are an experienced showman but you tend to choke, break the performance into individual components and concentrate on each task. Look at the class as a series of individual gaits and transitions. If you focus on doing your best with each individual task, then the more tasks you complete successfully the better your performance will be as a whole.

Once you have the nuts and bolts of showing down you need to have a mental edge. Fine tune. The only way to polish a performance is to practice performing. Performing is more than just training and grooming, itís attitude and maturity. The goal is to have that overwhelming confidence that shows in the ring. The best way to be confident in performing, is to show. Practice the art of ďshowingĒ. I like to see competitors go to little open shows and schooling shows and go all out to compete. Become a veteran showman by experience. When you combine being prepared, organized, focused and experienced you will have greater success and fewer fluttering insects in your gut.

Finally, be thankful and forgiving. We are so blessed to live in a part of the world to where we have the privilege to own a show horse. To most people of the world we live as kings. So, be thankful, forgiving and kind to yourself and others. If you donít happen to bring home the blue ribbon today, so what. It doesnít change the fact that you are you and that somebody still loves you. Rest in the fact that no matter what you accomplished today there is always tomorrow, Lord willing.

PS 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. NIV

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