Maintaining a stable sense of self-confidence in the show pen is like balancing a tray of crystal glasses while walking across a busy dance floor. One misstep or one poorly timed bump from a passerby can send the whole thing crashing down. What happens when this proverbial tray falls in a world where judgment is the name of the game? How do we pick ourselves up and regain our self-confidence?
Five exhibitors share the moments–big and small–both inside and outside of the show pen, that shook their self-confidence and forced them to find a way to reframe their mindset and get back in the saddle with a renewed focus. Strategies range from studying video and reading books to leaning hard on horse show family. No matter the method, regaining a positive frame of mind is imperative if you want to move forward in a positive direction.
At the 2017 Quarter Horse Congress, Gentry Cherry was fresh off wins in Working Hunter and Hunter Hack at the Youth World. She entered the Non-Pro Derby, a big evening class that always draws a large crowd. Carrying the confidence of recent wins in her pocket, Cherry was ready. Unfortunately, her horse was not. “My horse decided he didn’t feel like participating that night, and I actually came off in the middle of my round! It was the first time I had ever fallen off at a show, and it rattled me,” she recalls. On top of that, 14-18 Hunter Under Saddle was first thing the next morning, so Cherry needed to clear her head, fast.
“I did my best to put it in the past, knowing that it was a fresh start on a new day. You can’t carry negative experiences on to your next ride or you’ll beat yourself. The next day, I rode way more aggressively and tied to win. I ended up Reserve Champion and never looked back.” Since then, Cherry has piloted her horse, Al E Hondro, to three more World Championships. Much of the team’s success, and what helps Cherry from letting self doubt seep in, can be credited to the hard work they put in long before show day.
She says, “I’ve always believed that anyone can win on any given day, so I always just worry about getting myself prepared. There will always be a better horse or rider, but you can’t dwell on everyone else. The only thing you can control is you.” One method Gentry uses is going to big shows, recognizing what it takes to compete at that level, and then putting in the hard work that it takes to get there. In this way, her confidence doesn’t falter when she comes face to face with the caliber of her competition. “Be prepared. Go in there knowing you can win just as much as anyone else, as long as you’ve put in the work. Just remember to have fun. It will all pay off.”