I always knew competition would show all the shadows in my life. That’s why I feel so deeply that personal development is the root and the starting point for all the external results we want to achieve; either in the arena or life in general. 

In the arena, we cannot fake anything and we cannot pretend. It is us, our horses, the clock, cow, judge, obstacles; whatever your discipline is. There are no faking results. That is one reason why I love competition, it calls out all the BS. It shows where I lack, either in the actual arena or in the many “arenas” of my life.

If you’re not confident, your riding performance will show that, if you have anxiety about being seen, your performance will show that. In so many ways, our development as a human is needed if we are to overcome our own set of obstacles to really shine and thrive! 

This brings me to a quick story about why I was not performing well. I think after many years, I finally have my answers as to why. To back track, this takes us roughly 4 years ago. I went to the USA to work for a few futurity trainers and I came home thinking I knew everything there was to know about barrel racing.

I did learn a lot, but when it was my time to shine and show off how much better I was than everyone else, it was a total disaster.. No kidding. I had a 4 year old futurity horse I could hardly get a qualifying run on and if we did manage to turn three barrels, it was definitely not fast. I was so embarrassed and confused after every run being a let down. “What was I missing in this?” I asked myself.  I reached a state of very unhappy and hopeless. Before I ran I wondered why I was even going into that arena and as you can imagine my performance kept reinforcing this mental state I was trapped in.

Eventually, after many realizations and major humbling, I overcame this mental block. Slowly we scratched off the possibilities that were causing this unfortunate hiccup. First we looked at the horse; after a vet and a variety of therapeutic treatments later, she was in the clear. Now who else do we have to blam? Oh ya, it was me.

This brings me to the big thing I realized was missing those many years ago. I am trying not to be embarrassed to say this, but it was self-love. Like, the real self love. To help explain the definition of what I was going through, I will tell you what it is not. It was myself not taking care of “me.” I was unable to fill my own cup up, so I turned to external factors. I wanted my barrel racing to fill my self esteem. I wanted other people to make me feel qualified enough to be here(like being born isn’t enough already..). I wanted support from a partner to allow me to feel loved and supported because really, I was unable to do it for myself. I thought I needed all these things to reach victory in the arena. I learned that even if I had all these things on my side; they wouldn’t fix the bigger issue going on within myself internally.

This was a “me vs me” journey I had to face.

Before this realization, I always felt personally attacked when my barrel racing runs didn’t go well. I took it to heart as a reflection of my self-worth; hello unnecessary pressure. I became so reliant on “winning” that if I wasn’t getting that “win” I was miserable and felt no love, either from others or simply myself. If I wasn’t winning in the arena, I could hardly stand to look at myself. Sounds crazy right? But it’s a very real thing we face in lots of areas, not just riding. But like I said before, our life outside of riding reflects ourselves on the inside of it too!

I learnt that we can get caught up wanting external factors to make us feel certain ways about ourselves; worthiness, beautiful, love etc.. But the problem is, when we don’t get those things we lose it all. But, here is the ticket; if we create those feelings within ourselves first, nothing outside can take that away from us; not a run, not a person, not any external circumstances – it is solely an inside job. 

A quote from this book I’m reading called Spirit Hacking By Shaman Durek said “ ​​If you’re wanting people to honour your time and your gifts, then you need to honour your time and you need to honour your gifts.”  Aka it starts with you.

Moving forward, I have become so sure of myself and my journey I don’t take defeat in any arenas of life personally anymore. I take everything that happens as a necessary lesson for me to grow and I am just grateful I get the opportunity to try again. I will change and pivot in order to become better. The difference is now, my internal state is solid while I am traveling down this path that is inevitably full of ups and downs.

Once I became so sure of myself, and let go of the “need” to win; the craziest thing started to happen – I actually started winning! I started riding with confidence no matter the outcome, I just felt lighter and at ease with my journey. All the pressure of competition just swept away from me because the competition result didn’t have the weight of my self worth riding on it. This new me started with self love. And that’s loving all aspects of this, the highs and lows. It’s understanding the path we’re on and feeling at ease with it knowing it is all for our higher good. 

I hope you can move forward, no matter what happens and still feel ok about yourself. You are already complete. When it becomes an inside job and you rely on yourself to bring you the internal feeling of success, nothing can take that away. And that’s when you know you have reached true success!  When that happens, life becomes easier and the things you want will come to you as they are supposed to. Always remember to enjoy the ride.