Over the last few months, I’ve been able to show in both Tryon and Aiken. It’s been a wonderful learning experience to be able to ride challenging courses in large atmospheres that push me and my horse out of our comfort zone.

With our hard work and focus, my lease horse T and I have been able to meet numerous goals we’ve set out for our fall. Despite our new partnership, we’ve successfully completed 1.15m courses, and have had our sights on 1.20m. 

At our most recent competition, we made an effort to move up to 1.20m, to gain experience and wrap up the season by stepping up a level. Going into the round, I mostly felt confident, although I felt hints of doubt and hesitation creeping into my mind more so than usual.

The nerves lingering in the back of my mind culminated in gaps in my riding, and a premature end to our first 1.20m course. I made a small and fixable mistake, riding to a large oxer out of a turn with no impulsion – something that can be addressed before our next outing. However, the mental hurdle of moving past my mistake is proving to be more difficult than our physical capability of performing. 

T and I have schooled 1.20m+ at home, so we know we’re capable. Additionally, as my friends remind me, it’s only a hole larger than what we’ve competed at. So why is this a road block? Why do I lack the confidence in myself to achieve this goal? How can I set myself up better, with a mindset of positivity and strength? 

Practicing at home goes beyond the work we do with our horses, but requires us to work on ourselves as well. 

Heading into our last show of the season, where we plan to gain my confidence back at our “comfort” level before attempting 1.20m again, I’ve set some goals for myself, outside of the work I’m doing in the ring, to better prepare myself.

I’m visualizing the round I know we can have, based on analyzing previously successful rounds. I’m talking to friends and my support system for helpful reminders of how far I’ve come, how prepared I am, and that I am in fact capable. Finally, I’m identifying words of affirmation that resonate with me to remind myself to trust the work I’ve put in, the process, and myself. 

It can be intimidating to move up a level, pushing yourself out of your bubble to try something new. Oftentimes, as I’m finding, it’s largely a mental challenge. As I wrap up the fall season and turn to the New Year and new goals for 2022, I plan to remind myself of this component to the sport, and prioritize my mindset as I go into the ring.