By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m about to compete in my first “A” horse show since switching barns, where I’ll be competing against my former barn mates and trainer. I’m incredibly nervous. I know my former trainer is going to be watching me with a critical eye the entire time. How do I ignore their critical eyes and do my best? (I left for a reason!)
Your last few words are important words: You left for a reason. Gymnasts change coaches. Baseball players change teams. Riders change barns and trainers.
Change is difficult for anyone, and you must have felt something wasn’t right for you since you made the decision to move onto another situation.
That alone is a difficult decision to make and follow through with. Relationships with others at a barn can influence decisions despite a good relationship with the trainer. When it’s issues with your trainer, even though the decision might be well-founded in your mind, taking action can be crippling. Something was so uncomfortable with your situation that this change presented a better option, less tension and better possibilities for you and your riding endeavors.
It’s always hoped that when one changes from one trainer to another, good communication has allowed for an understanding of the student’s decision (assuming the issues have been thoroughly addressed and an attempt to resolve them has been made). Open discussion will hopefully allow for an amicable parting of the ways.
However, this can be far from reality in many situations.
Leaving a barn, trainer and “friends” and moving on while having to compete at the same show can challenge one’s emotional fortitude and confidence. Even the most opinionated and confident individual can feel somewhat anxious having to confront the “old” issues again while trying to stay focused, have a clear mind and ride.
- You left the old situation because it proved to be the wrong one for you.
- You left the old situation because you couldn’t work toward your riding goals with your interpretation of what was going on.
- There must be mutual respect to stay in a barn relationship.
The mutual respect with other riders and/or the trainer must have been lacking and irreparable, otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to make such a difficult decision and act on it.
Remember, you left them. You were in a negative situation. The issue(s) couldn’t be resolved and you left for greener pastures where you could work on your goals, respect others and be respected. For you, the new barn is the right situation. You left their negativity and are in a positive place now.
There are various ways to overcome the doubt that your trainer and former “friends” might have instilled in you. Working with a sport consultant or sport psychologist is one of the fastest ways to work through this. Brief cognitive/behavioral work can help you to focus better on the task at hand rather than being concerned with the judgement of those watching you ride. There are also visualization and imagery techniques that can totally change your feelings regarding certain situations impacting your performance at a horse show.
I appreciate that everyone wants a quick fix for in-depth issues. However, taking a little time to properly work through these feelings is going to be the best method for quieting the screaming voice in the back of your head. Using a mind/body approach can assure a positive outcome in addressing a situation that can be disabling.
Don’t forget: Your thoughts control your actions and your actions determine your reality.