Along for the Ride – Breaking Old Habits/Mindsets

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Written in December 2018.

I thought I’d share a little of what’s been happening with my new horse “Dale”.  We purchased Dale a couple weeks ago at the NRHA Futurity show – Chuy shopped for me, as he knows my style and abilities quite well.  We had chosen a mare that he really liked but unfortunately, she had a little issue on her stifle that I was not willing to risk.  When he found out Dale was for sale (his name was Fabio then), he called me straight away.  Dale was an “open” horse, meaning he was high enough caliber for a really top professional to ride, but Chuy felt he’d make a good horse for me.

After exceeding our goals at the World Equestrian Games, I felt the need to set new ones and Jane Pike had encouraged me to aim high.  So, I have.  Currently, my total NRHA earnings are a bit over $56,000 USD.  It has taken me since 2001 to accumulate those earnings (I have only showed consistently about 4 of those years – meaning shown all year vs. one or two shows per year).  In 2016, I doubled my earnings because I showed 2 horses and showed a fair bit.  So I went from $22,000 to $44,000.  Well, the new goals are:

2019 – Get to $100,000 in earnings

2020 – Win the AQHA Select Amateur Reining World Championship (for 50 and over non-professionals)

In order to reach my goal for next year, I needed a younger horse so that I could show in the categories that had more money.  The classes for the oldies like Oscar don’t provide enough money for me to reach my goals in one year. This is why I was searching for a younger horse.  Dale will be 5 on January 1st (like all horses in the Northern Hemisphere).  We will show in the “Derby” classes next year.  These are for 4, 5 & 6 year old horses and have significantly more money than the Maturities (for horses over 7).

Anyway, when we flew back to Oklahoma City to meet Fabio/Dale at the show, I was at first a bit disappointed, honestly.  He was really not very good on the ground.  He had to chew on something the entire time – including us if he could reach. I am going to go out on a limb here and admit that, in my head, I thought he was a bit scary.  He was one I was not going to turn my back on.  This was my first impression of the horse I’d already paid for!  I was able to think more logically about why he acted this way:  1.  Dale/Fabio was a horse in a big trainer’s barn/program – one of probably 30-50 horses the trainer rode.  An assistant had done all the work on the ground with him – saddling, grooming, preparing, etc. The trainer had gotten on, ridden him, gotten off and handed him to someone else for everything else – unsaddling, washing, etc..Usually in programs like this, that person is one of the least experienced  2. I don’t think he had a very high opinion of humans.  and not surprisingly 3. He was anxious.  But even though I knew logically what was going on, my heart was a bit heavy (for many reasons) and I sure hoped that we could help him once we got home.

So, while I was in OKC, I didn’t try to change anything – he was very good under saddle.  “Good” meaning obedient.  He did what I asked for without appearing anxious or defensive or resentful.  Talent was not an issue either – he is a great reining horse.

We got him back to our place last week and today will be session 6 with him.  I just want to talk about session 1 and 5 so that I can talk about breaking old habits.

The first session was in the round pen.  He was turned loose.  I was doing the work under Warwick’s watchful eye (and camera – we are videoing the whole thing).  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit anxious.  I don’t like when horses bite – it is scary.  In the past, biting was met with an elbow.  Not in a malicious way, but as an “oops you just ran into my elbow” way.  It usually worked, but in hindsight it can also make a horse defensive and just obedient.  You probably have not taken away their desire to bite, but they know there will be a repercussion if they do, so they don’t.

I went to the middle of the round pen and when he finally engaged me and came up to me, he started to chew.  My instinct was to throw the elbow in to protect myself.  Warwick suggested a different idea after my first flaying elbow – he told me to just increase my energy – not AT Dale, just in my space.  Start small and increase until Dale steps back.  At first I did too much, because, as I said, I don’t want to be bitten.  After a while I got the hang of the new response and started more slowly and then intensified until he stepped back.  The most amazing thing happened.  He stopped trying to bite me, he licked and chewed and started to nuzzle me instead.  Instead of pushing into me, he was asking if he could share space with me.

Now, I know I’ve heard and seen the most incredible things from the focus work and Oscar is awesome at it.  But I guess I’d never truly FIXED something that I thought needed fixing with it until this moment.  It freakin works!!!!  In the subsequent sessions – Dale has progressed and while in my presence he has not tried to chew on things or me anymore as long as I can get his focus.

The second day under saddle was another opportunity for me to break a habit.  The habit that I had before was to lead the horse into the arena and get on.  I did some focus work online just to see how that was and after I bridled him, I noticed that when I went to get on, he blocked me out.  In the past, I would not have seen this display and would have just gotten on.  Instead, I did the whole calming signals thing.  When I went to approach his near side and he blocked me, I stepped back, saying to him with my body language, “I saw that.”  It took a couple times and then he let me around to mount.  It’s not fixed yet, but I think we are making progress and I know he is feeling good about the relationship that is developing between us.

I have a long way to go, but they say you get the horse you need – I guess I needed Dale!

FOLLOW UP – I wrote this next blog, forgetting I’d written the one above, so this is an interesting Post Script – Written March 6th, so about 3 months later!

After the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last year, I thought about how I was to top that?  What could possibly be better than the entire experience in Tryon? I wanted to ride the high and I set out to establish some really lofty new goals.   

The biggest one was to double my NRHA earnings in 2019.  I had done it once before, in 2016 when I showed both Petey & Sherlock. Of course it was a smaller number then.  To accomplish it in 2019, it meant I needed a horse that could show in some of the premiere events and my horses were too old for those divisions (even though I will show them in some other classes and plan to show Oscar early in the year and Petey later in the year after Bella has her baby).   This is why I bought Dale (formerly known as Fabio).

My plan was to bring Dale home for a couple weeks, get to know him and then send him to Chuy’s to stay in full time training. (Dale was the last name of his previous owners and the name went well with my other boys Petey & Oscar).  I rationalized that we didn’t have the room (we only have 3 stalls and we needed them for Bella, Petey & Oscar) and I didn’t have the time to ride 2 horses every day. He would just be my show horse, I thought, I won’t get attached.  Then I’ll sell him at the end of the year so that he is still young enough to get what we paid for him and I’ll have reached my goal and YES – that is an awesome plan!

Then I brought him home.

He’s a talented reining horse.  He’s a successful reining horse – he won 2 Reserve World Championships in 2018.  

But man was he anxious.  That chewing – all anxiety/disassociation stuff. 

He didn’t know how to interact with us.  

It took me 3 days of sitting on a bucket in the round pen for him to be curious & confident enough to want much to do with me!  After that, everyday our relationship deepened. Oh boy, I’m in trouble! I think my horse purchasing should be stopped. I cannot keep collecting these horses!!!

So, Bella moved in with Petey (yes, they share a stall and paddock when it’s raining and it’s been raining a lot here) and Dale joined them and Oscar in the barn and took the 3rd stall. I’ve shifted my schedule so that I’m riding more – it’s good to have Oscar be the second horse I have to ride since he just needs to be kept fit and happy.  

The past few months of riding Dale and getting to know him, my opinion of him has only grown better and better.  Warwick loves him, he says, “Well maybe he’s a 2 year horse now.” Translation: maybe he is never leaving!

I think my whole competition mindset has shifted as well.  WEG was such an awesome experience that now when I start thinking about a monetary goal, I’m not sure I want to continue towards it.  You see, WEG was not about money. WEG was about the experience of representing a country and going out and having FUN and of course, doing the best we could in the arena.  It was about spending time with people we love and respect. It was about so much more than winning anything. Hard to explain when all of my life, the showing has been about competing and winning.

I’m pretty sure I won’t ever have another WEG experience.  I’m just as sure that I’ll spend a lot of time chasing that feeling. I don’t think it is attainable if I only focus on the competition instead of the experience. I think I want the experience more now.  I never thought I’d be saying that.

I leave for the first show of the season in 10 days.  I feel like a weight has been lifted after this realization and new focus.  I’m looking forward to spending time in the desert (there is something magical about the desert) with my 2 horses and my dogs and my friends (Warwick arrives on show day).  I plan to keep all the practices that I did at WEG with me and even add some new one’s like meditation into the mix.  I’ll be the one going for a walk amongst the cactus before my class and smiling all the way through my pattern and hoping like HE## that when it comes down to it, I can remain in the moment and grateful for the experience that is presented to me!

Thanks for reading.

 

8 Skills your horse needs

The 8 skills your horse needs to know:

Everything we do is a combination of these 8 things.

  1. Bend laterally on both sides – (1-2).
  2. Bend laterally and disengage at same time both sides – (3-4).
  3. Go forward – (5).
  4. Go backwards off hands – (6).
  5. Get off inside leg both sides – (7-8).

You can see how to teach your horse these on our video site:  videos.warwickschiller.com  Just follow the First Rides and Basic Body Control videos.

12 Principles of Training

MAKE THE WRONG THING HARD AND THE RIGHT THING EASY

The basic tenant of this principle is leave your horse alone while he is doing what you want.

DON’T GO TO BED ANGRY

When your horse is no longer relaxed, you need to get him relaxed again before proceeding. (Like a married couple, if
anything has built up during the day, get rid of it before you
go to bed.)

CREATE A TOOL BEFORE YOU USE A TOOL

When solving a problem you need to make sure the tool or exercise you are using to solve the problem is fully functional
before you use it.

APPLICATION OF YOUR AIDS

Also known as order of cues, this principle is very important in teaching a horse how to respond to subtlety.

DO THE OPPOSITE

As the olde English saying goes “You ride a slow horse fast and a fast horse slow.”

THE DONKEY KONG PRINCIPLE

This horse training principle, like Donkey Kong or any other video game, relies on the idea that whenever you get something wrong, you return to the beginning and start all over again.

CHOOSE WHERE YOU WORK AND CHOOSE WHERE YOU REST

Be aware of your horses internal GPS and their ability to recall places where no rest occurs. An amazing tool to that is one of
the foundations of Warwick’s training.

THEY NEED TO KNOW THE ANSWER BEFORE YOU ASK THE QUESTION

Similar to how we teach children to count before they add,
and add before they multiply, because the answer to the current question lies in the previous teaching.

ISOLATE, SEPARATE, RECOMBINE

Anytime you are asking a horse to do two or more things at once they need to know them perfectly well separately. 
When you put them together and it is not working you need to mentally isolate the one that is not working, separate it and correct the issue before recombining them.

ANTICIPATION IS YOUR BEST FRIEND OR YOUR WORST ENEMY

Horses are masters at anticipation and knowing when to enhance it and when to suppress it is a key element of training.

CHANGE ONE THING AT A TIME

When it’s time to add something, make sure you only change one thing a time so you know what works or doesn’t work.

WORK WITH THE HORSE YOU HAVE TODAY

No two days are the same, do not work with a horse with any preconceived notions or expectations.  Work with the horse that is in front of you right now and do what that horse needs.

You can see all these videos on our online video library:  videos.warwickschiller.com

Click here to download the 12 Principles of Training Poster

Along for the Ride – The Constant Factor is You

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

I was listening to the Bulletproof podcast a while ago and Dave Asprey was interviewing Esther Perel (whom I’d never heard of but have since looked up).  She was talking about human relationships, but I think we would be well served to consider it for our horses TOO (what I’m suggesting is that you also consider it in the context she was talking about.)

She said:

“We all have relationship issues that we’re going to need to work on.  All of us. It’s just part of human nature. The only question is going to be with whom. You don’t want to work on them in this relationship, you’re going to have to work on them in the next relationship because you’re the constant factor. At some point you’re going to have to look at yourself, my dear.”

It reminds me of a session that Warwick has done at a few of the recent expos called “The One Thing that Will Change the Relationship You Have with Your Horse”.  He starts by telling everyone to take out their phone and point it at him.  Then he tells them to use the button that rotates the phone to take a selfie.  When everyone sees themselves on their phones he pronounces – “You.  You are the 1 thing that will change the relationship with your horse.”

It’s so true.  We look at the bit and change to bitless.  We look at diet and give them a supplement.  We look at the training we are doing and change it to the newest thing or a different trainer.  We get the vet out, or the shoer, or the body worker and we get them to change things.  We change disciplines or EVEN sell the horse! But, all the time, we are not looking in the mirror at the one thing that can make the biggest difference.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t examine the things I mention above.  Of course, you should be assessing the well-being of your horse constantly.  But don’t forget to assess the one.constant.factor = YOU.

Just thought I’d share that ah-huh moment with you.

Thanks for reading.

Along for the Ride – Body Betrayal

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

I get stuck writing these blogs because I feel like I have to have the answer for whatever it is that I’m sharing or a moral to the story or something to leave you with.   This one will be different, in that it’s just pure sharing (and commiserating with those in the same boat).

I’m reading/listening to a book given to me by Angela Koning after I posted on the WSPH Facebook Group announcing my first FB live (thank you Angela!).  The post was a musing on how I could contribute in other ways to this incredible community that we have gathered. The book she sent me is called Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell.  Today, while listening (I have hard copy and audible version), she said something that made me sit down at the computer and write about something that I haven’t before.  She said that I should write what I most need to hear.

I am going to write about this because it is top of mind right now and I guess I most need to hear that I’m not alone and that our worth is not determined by the numbers on a scale or the size of our bodies.

The best way to put it out there is to define it as a feeling that my body is betraying me.  Shouldn’t there be a silver bullet by now?  Shouldn’t it be as simple as calories in vs. calories out? Shouldn’t your body do the right thing – haha? This has not been my experience.

I’ve been the chubby kid all my life.  I went on my first diet at The Diet Center when I was 12.  Let me just say right here, that I don’t blame anyone. Thin has always been in.

I had grown out of my mom’s & sister’s size bra and pants when I was 13.  I’ve always thought of myself as overweight and have measured myself by the numbers on the scale and size of pants I wear.  The higher the numbers, the worse I feel.

When I was 19, I discovered exercise!  At that time, in the early 90’s, aerobics were all the rage.  I’d always been active, not athletic – I was a cheerleader in the days where we did standard cheering, not the crazy acrobatics they do now. I’d never really exercised outside of gym class at school. But when I found aerobics, I loved the way that I felt! I loved it so much that I went and got a certification to teach it and teach I did.  I’d also do hours on the stairclimber (even before teaching a class).  I had another measure of my worth now – did I exercise enough today?

It’s no surprise that this happened at the same time that I also had a very controlling boyfriend.  He was the sort of “boy”that was jealous of the time that I spent riding my horse (which I had gotten back into after taking a break in high school) or going to school (I was attending a 2-year college then).  I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones then – that would have been a nightmare.  This is when I began a very unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.  Amongst other things, I cut out ALL FAT – it was the devil (that is what we were told at the time) and if I ate something, I had to make sure that the exercise I did negated whatever it was. I did this because it was really all I felt like I could control.  I guess it was to spite the boyfriend – ‘you can’t control what I put in my mouth’.  But, here’s the kicker –   my body betrayed me! I didn’t lose any weight!  (I know now that, in actuality, my body was actually pretty good at survival – still is!  I wish that realization made me nicer to the image in the mirror.)

I got rid of the boyfriend (and engagement) thankfully before I took on more of his stuff and I sought out the help of a therapist that specialized in eating disorders.  He got me back on track and it was when I was really working on this that I met Warwick.  One of the main reasons we didn’t jump right into a relationship was because I was not ready – I was still sorting stuff out.

Through the years I won’t say that I’ve ever been truly happy with my body – there have been times when I’ve been happier with it. Coincidentally always when I my body was cooperating with my efforts! I’ve had some success dieting, I lost 20 pounds after Tyler was born and then 30 pounds 5 years later on Weight Watchers.  I’ve done the Bullet Proof plan and keto and lost weight and felt better on them.  I’ve even – get this – had my belly fat frozen…haha.  I don’t recommend it – I can’t imagine liposuction hurting any worse.

The last couple of years though, dealing with the changing hormones of menopause, I’m back to feeling betrayed again.  I’ve always taken good care of myself, I don’t smoke or do drugs and I exercise modestly (not obsessively anymore). I’m active outside on most days doing horsey chores and riding. I don’t eat processed food anymore and my sugar intake is minimal.  I do enjoy my drinks, but I’m a lightweight and if I have more than 2 I’m miserable the next day, so I don’t. So, why is my setpoint getting higher and higher? It’s embarrassing – I hate looking at pictures of myself these days (just keeping it real).

I wish that it helped to know that at this point in my life it is hormonal – I do blood work and have it reviewed by my naturopath every 6 months. So, I know, scientifically what we are dealing with and it makes total sense what is going on – it is totally hormonal.  We tweak the supplements I’m taking to try and balance them back out.  The latest results: my testosterone levels are so low that they couldn’t even do one of the tests! It had been low before (not this low) and she had given me some supplements for it.  But I had gone off of them because for one of them, the World Equestrian Games Anti-Doping regulations prohibited it and the other I felt had side effects I didn’t want to live with.

I’ve started back on the one supplement and have just gone back to really cutting out sugar.  If this isn’t successful, I’m considering doing some hormone replacement – something I’ve been dead set against because of all the nightmare stories I’ve heard. However, my naturopath seems to think it may be a good option on some lower doses.

May be a good optionIt might work.  But, in her opinion, our weight setpoint goes up until about a year after menopause and then it comes back down again (which is exactly what happened to my mom).  I’m in that grey area of not really being post-menopausal (although some of my blood tests do indicate it).  I can’t reach that year point, it keeps resetting itself! For me, this equals Body Betrayal of the utmost level!

Yesterday, I thought I’d start trying the deflection technique.  What I mean by that (as there is probably a better name for it, but that is what popped into my head) is that anytime I start thinking about how I feel about carrying around too much weight, I will instead practice gratitude or think about something else.   I’ll let you know how I go! I think between that and getting this written (and out of my head) it may help! I’m open to suggestions to those in the boat with me!

I guess that is where I’ll leave it. As Brene Brown says, “I am on the journey with you trying to get there, but I don’t have it mastered.”

Thanks for letting me share.  Please know that I get that there are people out there who have a whole other level of “body betrayal” (not just my narcissistic one) and I can’t imagine that, this blog is not meant to lessen their situation or anything like that.  It’s like another Brene-ism – I might not be in the same situation, but I may have the same emotional feelings as you.

Along for the ride – the Anxiety Equation

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

After my first Facebook Live, I have had a lot of people comment about “the Equation” I mentioned.  It’s not mine, it’s something I learned from Jane Pike (Confident Rider).  In case you missed it – here we go:

All states/emotions have 3 variables to them that make them exist.  They are made up of:

  1. Your Focus
  2. Your Self-Talk
  3. Your Physiology

So, the EQUATION part is that all of these things need to all be in existence for that emotion to exist…so 1+1+1 = 3 (the equation).  You could also think of it like a triangle and that all 3 are the legs of the triangle, if that works better for you.

For Anxiety to exist, your focus has to be on something that is giving you the anxious feeling, your self-talk is going to be telling you how anxious you are and your physiology is usually going to come along for the ride and you will have a rapid or strong heartbeat, maybe some sweating, maybe some butterflies in your tummy.

The beauty of the Equation is that if you are able to just control 1 of those variables and change it – the anxiety equation is broken – it no longer exists.  If you change one, then the equation becomes 1+1 so it no longer equals 3 (which is what it has to equal to be Anxiety).  So, if you are envisioning a triangle, if you take away one of those legs, it is no longer a triangle, it’s just lines.

Here are some of the ways that I have been able to break the anxiety equation (I know why these things worked after I heard Jane explain the equation):

  1. Focus – I thought about something else. So, in a horse show situation, every time I thought about my pattern or going into the arena, I shifted my thoughts to something else like what I was going to have for dinner that night or pictured myself sitting on the beach in Kauai. Right before walking into the arena, I’d count the conchos on my headstall and not about going in to show my horse. A couple years ago, in the midst of an anxiety attack at work (ugggg) I had someone tell me to try and look around and look for colors – I see a green tree, a blue bucket, an orange ball.  Just a distraction, but it takes your focus off of “I’m going to die”.  It worked a little bit for me, but I was pretty deeply under the control of the anxiety at that point.
  2. Self-Talk – I told myself it was excitement and not anxiety – they both have the same physiology (Jane told me this recently)!
  3. Physiology – I have used breathwork with the most success – Jane teaches amazing techniques and my favorite has a name I can’t remember, but I call it the “breathe on the mirror” breath. Going for a walk works too and even though it is counter to what you think you should do when your heart is already beating out of your chest, exercise is good.  I had doctors recommend this years ago and it always felt so counter to what I was feeling that I rarely used it.  For me, the breathwork takes care of the other 2 variables as well, so I tend to do this.

After writing this down, I see I have some work to do on #2 because I could not think of many examples and I realize that I usually used either 1 or 3 to break the equation in the past.

I asked Jane afterwards if this works with any emotion and reckons that it does.  So for anger, fear, resentment, etc. it can work as well…just change one of the variables and the equation no longer adds up to whatever it is you are feeling.

I hope that I have done a good enough job explaining this that it may help you if you need it!  If not, head over to Confident Rider/Jane Pike and learn from the master – she is a life changer!

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

Along for the ride: Actively DO

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Warwick got a PM the other day from a friend.  This friend was concerned about another friend that was having trouble with her horse.  The horse was becoming “dangerous” – biting people, kicking, you know, things that aren’t cool!

She complained that she had sought advice from Warwick and he had only told her to “watch the videos”.  Which isn’t exactly what we would have said, but sometimes people don’t want to hear that the answer is going through the steps on the videos that reside in the online video library and would be too hard to answer in an email.

The online video library started as Warwick trying to help as many people as possible.  There are only so many horses you can ride and lessons you can give in a day – limitations if you will as to how many people you can physically help with their horses.  However, virtually, those limits don’t exist.  A person can video how to train a horse from the ground up and make it available to literally millions of people!  A person can show in a video what is possible with horses by capturing the process and the results they get with the horses they’ve owned, trained and helped.  Then they can give you a step by step process to get there – a roadmap!  This is exactly what Warwick has done.

The results that you see are the culmination of a successful process.  They don’t just Happen.  Unfortunately, there isn’t magic fairy dust that we sprinkle over them and POOF – the problem is gone, the horse is trained. The results come about when you “Actively Do” the things you need to do!  I love the explanation of “Actively Doing” that Jane Pike shared with us at the Cultivating Confidence Workshop.  Jane explained what Actively Doing was when she recounted her hypnotherapy training.  She was partnered up with someone and they were practicing processes.  Jane was feeling like it wasn’t quite working and so she took her instructor aside and apologized.  She said, “I don’t feel it’s working.”   The instructor told her that it wasn’t working because she was not Actively DOING the things she was supposed to be.  Perhaps, like a lot of us, she was waiting for the thing to be done to her.  Once she started Actively Doing what she was supposed to (the process), she was successful.

Proven processes work but you have to Actively Do them – pretty much the same whether it’s training your horse, learning a new skill yourself, cooking dinner or tying your shoe. This was a big lightbulb for me when Jane talked about it.  Your success will be dependent on your participation in the process.  If you half ass it, you’ll probably get half assed results.  If you ACTIVELY DO it, then you can achieve anything!

As a tangent to this, a word of caution:  Make sure that any process you follow or advice that you take is coming from a credible source.  When I say credible, I mean make sure you know what the results of their process look like before you jump in and that in your eyes the process is something you want to achieve as well.  You wouldn’t have someone build you a house if you hadn’t seen examples of the houses they’d built before.

Along for the ride: Tips for a successful event!

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and nationally competitive rider.

If you would have told me that Warwick & I would both mark our Personal Best scores in reining at the World Equestrian Games (WEG – the “biggest” show we’ve ever gone to), I would never believed it possible!  But we did and more!

I thought I would jot down the most significant things that WE DID AT THE GAMES, not leading up to the games because there was so much in the leadup (from the horse training to the mental preparation).  These things worked for us because we had done a lot of work prior to our arrival in Tryon.

Keep your expectations realistic! Our expectations were to do the best that we could with our horse on the day – truly!  We were showing horses that were kept at home, lived in a pasture together, weren’t clipped and we were showing against the best of the best.  We wanted to do well for the team, but never thought past that.  We figured we would show once – in the team event.  Neither of us thought we would do well enough to qualify for a second run, but we both did.  And after that run we were only ½ point and 1 point, respectively, off of making the individual finals – WAYYYYYY more than we could have dreamed! I think if we had gone in with the expectation to make the individual finals, things would not have gone as well.

We surrounded ourselves with awesome people.  Our dream team was assembled by a combination of us choosing some of the people around us, some of the people chose to come to the games and the remainder were teammates who had earned their place there.   I will mention the one that I got to choose, Jane Pike (Confident Rider).  You would be hard pressed to find a lovlier human being than Jane.  Add in the fact that she has some super mental/mindset skills to share and is also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, it was an easy choice to invite her along on this journey.  I actually popped the question to her last year while we were in New Zealand and I prefaced it with “If we are lucky enough to qualify for this amazing event…”  I couldn’t be happier with that decision and her acceptance to come.  I know she sacrificed a lot to be there with us and am so grateful for her presence before, during and after the WEG. Surrounding ourselves with people like Jane definitely boosted our game.

We adopted a no complaining/negativity rule complete with a “safeword” when we strayed.  The word doesn’t matter – and our chosen one was part of an inside joke (it was “water”). It was just a trigger to stop the path of our negative thinking.  In our group, if anyone strayed into negative territory, we just called out our safe word and it adjusted our thoughts.  Personally, there were a couple of times that I had to physically removed myself from negative conversations (when I was around other people, not our group).  You couldn’t get me out of there fast enough! I’m not saying that we were always 100% positive, that is unrealistic, however, I reckon we got into the 70-80% range.

Make sure you arrive at the event in the best physical and mental shape possible.   I’ve always done some sort of exercise but we started Crossfit about 6 weeks before we travelled to the games and it made me feel strong and good about myself (and a little sore!).  We also have been practicing Meditation for the last year or so through the help of Jane Pike who made us our own personalized audios.  We also practiced using Headspace and Muse.  Having a clear mind really helps reduce the anxiety and anticipation and gets you back into the moment. Both of us also went “on the wagon” for 3 months prior to the WEG.

Make sure your horse arrives at the event in the best physical and mental shape possible. I won’t share how much our vet/shoeing bills were, but we ensured we had given the horses the VERY best care and probably went a little overboard in the lead up.  They got shockwave, joint injections, Adequan, Legend, bodywork, the best shoeing around to match x-rays of their angles, etc.  We carefully monitored what work we did and when we did it.  Honestly, I didn’t stop my horse until the second day we were at the venue and I only stopped him about 3 times each day.  I think I only worked on the spin 3 of the 6 days we were there. I ensured that he was able to reset himself mentally if he got too “up”.  I did notice that after the first hard run, he changed from being a little forward but chilled to more anxious and less forward.  It was an interesting observation but obviously didn’t impact the semi-final performance!

Get enough sleep.  Luckily we did not have to, nor could we, ride during early AM or late PM hours.  The riding schedule was posted the day before so we were able to plan for bed times, etc.  It is unusual to not be tired at the horse shows and for someone who has a hard time napping, I needed to get my sleep during normal sleeping hours!

Eat as well as you can.  This was probably the biggest challenge.  We were in a catering situation that wasn’t real good until about 2 days before we competed.  I think the adrenaline from just being there helped and I never found myself being “Hangry”.  I did want a lot of veggies by the end of it though.

Listen to music that inspires you.  We had a 30-minute drive to and from the venue each day, so we filled the mornings with songs that we had chosen to inspire us.  My two songs were “Best Day of My Life” by the American Authors and one that I’ve been listening to before every horse show since I was 5 years old, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” by Willie Nelson.  Warwick’s choices were “Believer” by Imagine Dragons and “Legend” by The Score.

Make sure what you’ve left at home is in good hands.  Most people I know can’t just go away from home for weeks at a time with nothing to sustain at home.  For us, we still had 5 horses, 2 dogs, a cat and a flock of chickens to be loved while we were gone.  Luckily, we found Bekah Tate who not only took great care of everything and everyone at home, but we got frequent updates from her as well!

In the warmup: 

  • When I would think about what might go wrong, I stopped the thought and instead gave thanks and gratitude for what I’d already accomplished (just being there, being able to show, my horse was sound and happy and prepared are just a few of the things I thought about). This was upon Jane’s suggestion and it worked a treat!
  • I focused on my performance statement – reminders to Focus, Think Slow, Slow your hand down, SMILE!
  • On the gratitude type of vibe, I also kept repeating a couple things in my mind. I pretended that someone was interviewing me after and asking me how it went and my answers were:  We had the best run we’ve ever had and My horse was better than he’s ever been.
  • Employed 2 different breathing techniques that Jane showed us.

In the showpen:

  • Reminded myself of my performance statement (slow down).
  • Reminded myself to SMILE – I was showing at the frigging WEG!!!
  • Employed the breathing technique that didn’t require fingers on my nose.

While some of these things are specific to the actual showpen, I think you could use some of the advice for anything in life.  I’ve certainly used it in other areas, and knowing the combination made for such a successful event at the World Equestrian Games, I’ll be employing these tips on a regular basis!  I’ll also continue doing the other work on myself and my horses that are found in Warwick’s subscription library and on Confident Rider!

Thanks for reading.