“The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”Mencius
Summer is officially here, and while most people think of summer as a break from school and maybe a family vacation, to the horse show diehards, it is Youth World Show Season. For some people, it will be their first time at a breed world show, and for others, it will be the last time they show as a youth, and perhaps the last time they show at all. There is enough tension and pressure at a Major show, and when you pile on the emotional component of ‘Susie's last show with Sparky’, you are dealing with a horse of a different color. But with a little understanding and planning, you can take one of life’s transitions and turn it into a wonderful transformation.
Is it over yet?
Most Americans are really good at starting things, some are good at starting and maintaining things, but very few are really good at starting, maintaining and ending things. It just isn’t they way we like things to be. Childhood stories end on a high note with, “and they lived happily ever after” because authors don’t really want to take time to explain that Cinderella and Prince Charming saw a lawyer, got a pre-nup, have three kids and live in Brooklyn. I’m not being cynical here, but nobody wants to think about what happened next, we like to move on to something else without officially ending a chapter and starting a new one. But when we brush over “The End” we are really missing out on what songwriters and poets write about, which is the bittersweet moments in life.
Present and Complete means no regrets
The key to any transition is to be complete and present even if it stings a little. I have heard so many people say, “I wish that person was still around so I could tell them ______. When you decide to go into the change heart-first, you may be surprised how much you can learn and grow from the situation.
Why is THIS ONE so important?
It is easy to sweep things under the stall mats, but if you are feeling different about this year, it’s important to figure out WHY this is such a big deal to you. Is it your last chance to win a youth world championship? Are you going to take a break from riding and this is your last show with your horse? Are you going to miss your friends and horse show family that you have spent the last 10 years of your life with? If you are a parent, will you miss your role at the shows? Make a list of all of the things that are important to you, and you will be well on your way to making sure your last world show is your best world show.
Satisfy the Why
A list without a plan is just a list. What you need to do is take a look at each item on your list and ask yourself, “ What can I do to make sure I have the experience that I want to have?” If you know there will be friends that you have shown with that are going off to school and you won’t be seeing them, is there something special you can do with or for them or them that would honor your friendship? If you just love the atmosphere of being at a major show, then make sure you take some time to really take it all in. The energy, the smells, whatever it is for you, just take some time and immerse yourself in it. Twenty years from now, you may not remember who won the Horsemanship Class in 2012, but you will remember how it felt to be there because you took the time to memorize how special this was to you.
Cultivate Grateful Memories
Developing an “attitude of gratitude” has some nice side effects. Would you like to feel more energetic, sleep sounder, have less stress and anxiety? If that doesn’t convince you, research has shown that people who keep a gratitude journal are less aggressive when provoked, and have a kinder way of being toward others. Hmmm, a major show with less stress? I think I would like a helping of that with a kind attitude on the side. The easiest way to develop gratitude muscles is to keep a simple journal of 5 things each day that you are grateful for. It doesn’t take that much time, and after a month or so of taking in the good stuff, some of the negative things that used to come into your life have decided to go elsewhere. The other benefit for keeping a gratitude journal is that you will be creating a memory journal that you can go back and visit from time to time if you want to. You can simply grab a notebook and write in it every day, or search the app store for more sophisticated versions that allow you to insert photos into each entry. Either way is fine, but by starting this now, you will be paving the way to being complete and present.
Random Acts of Kindness
One thing that goes hand in hand with gratitude is to do something nice for somebody else. Maybe there is somebody who has helped you in the past, and you are in the position to do something nice for them. Or instead of playing pranks on people, what if you did a random act of kindness, instead of a random act of vaseline on the stall doors. When you look back at your last Youth World Show, you probably want to feel proud, not embarrassed by your actions.
You may dream of winning a world championship, I think most people do at one time or another, but if you make it all about winning, you may set yourself up for disappointment. A better tactic is to take time and get clear about how you want to BE during the show. Since a show like this can be emotionally charged, now is the time to decide how you plan to interact with friends, family members and your horse. Knowing these things in advance will allow you to handle the emotional side of things prior to the show, and you will be able to concentrate on the tactical side of your riding with no interference.
You Never Know
If you know this is your last horse show, it is important to remember, it is your last horse show FOR NOW. You never know what will happen in the future, and knowing that you did everything you could to move forward while feeling truly grateful for the time you spent showing, will allow you to be happy in or out of the show pen.
Great article! I remember my very last world show. Making it in the top 20 in the hunt seat equitation class was a dream that came true! Hard work does pay off! Cherish every memory and always be grateful. I miss my horses still to this day but will ride again with AQHA and hopefully do public relations with a horse related organization.- JESSI MITCHELL