How to deal with disappointing competitions

‘You must learn to control your own mind and emotions before you can control the horse’- Easily one of my favourite quotes and is one of the strongest reasons I decided to dedicate a lot of my time towards self development as a person, to improve myself as a rider. One of the areas I worked hard on was dealing with failure in a pro active way and there was no better time to put this into practice than after a disappointing show, where emotions are very strong. Here is the process I go through-

Accepting it-

Now nobody comes out of a bad test grinning from ear to ear and it is important we don’t try and push our disappointment to the back of our head as it may crop up at future shows. I always allow myself a set amount of time to really feel all the emotions and let them out so they don’t end up eating away at me. This time can vary in each situation but the cut off date is the end of the day. After that I don’t allow a single negative thought or comment to pass about the experience. The reason I worked on getting this stage over and done as quickly as possible is so I didn’t end up spiralling into a negative frame of mind and I can put my ‘Plan of action’ into play as quickly as possible.

Another point I want to make about excepting a failure is not to ‘Play the victim’ and to take full responsibility for the outcome. Even if there are factors you couldn’t have controlled i.e the weather you must still take full responsibility for how you handled the situation and helped your horse. Playing the victim is not constructive and can make you feel powerless.

If you’re going to do anything of value its inevitable you’re going to fail.

I remind myself of this daily not just after a bad competition. It keeps me pushing myself out of my comfort zone and growing as a person.

After reading countless books on successful athletes, entrepreneurs, leaders etc I soon saw that every single one of them had faced more failures than I ever had and on much larger scales but this hadn’t stopped them. In fact it had been the fuel to their fire and taken them on priceless learning curves. So instead of heading into competitions with a huge amount of pressure to perform ‘perfectly’ I am always in a win-win situation. I am either going to do really well and be successful or I am going to learn an invaluable lesson. It is not always the outcome that matters but your perspective on it.

Learn from it

So after I have accepted the outcome I ask myself two questions- ‘What could I have done differently’ and ‘what can I do to improve for next time.’ Two very simple questions but given some time to get the honest answers very effective. The reason I say honest is because it may be hard to admit your short comings but in the long run this is the only way to work on them and move forward.

With the answers you write down you can start to make a ‘Plan of action’ of how to move forward by setting out goals. Goal setting is highly effective as it gives you structure and you can monitor your progress. A key to this is to not procrastinate over writing it all down as you may forget important factors or you may lose motivation to do it at all. Just putting in that extra bit of effort after a show can help you make sure the same issues don’t crop up for next time.

Use all your resources to improve

Just picking up the phone and calling someone for some advice or studying how other riders perform a test can contain the missing link to your ‘success’ chain or can give you a new angle to look at your situation. For example I recently had a very tough show. So whilst I was there I watched as many tests as I could to see how other riders handled similar situations. I then rang a friend and asked for her advice followed by another phone call to a local judge asking her opinion. You’ll be amazed what you can pick up if you just ask. Then there is the internet which has countless articles, blogs, vlogs etc just brimming with useful information. If you want to improve in any area in life you must study it!

You really have to think outside the box with this one and again it is all about how much effort and time you are willing to put into improving.

You’ll find the more you practice all of the above, the more positive you will become about competing. I now have a much more relaxed and calm approach which gives me the head space to look after the horses and keep them happy.