The Long Road: There are other colors besides blue

Competitive? Who, Maegan? This week, AQHA enthusiast Maegan Gossett realizes that her hyper-focus on winning could be the thing that’s keeping her from doing so.

From Maegan:

Dear Horse Nation, I need a mindset change.

I am way too focused on winning. When I’m at a show, I fall into this competitive hypnosis. I see fellow competitors and I immediately start assessing and comparing. A pattern is something to be conquered. A class full of riders is to be annihilated. It’s just my nature after nearly a decade of showing in a judged sport. I can’t help what’s become so ingrained. But I need to.

Last weekend was mine and Elle’s first show. We had missed the previous ones due to illness and injury, so this was to be our comeback. Friday and Saturday, I rode at the show, practicing and getting Elle quiet enough for my classes on Sunday. We had good workouts and some really good moments yet I felt as though we were slightly out of whack (that’s the technical term). Even though Elle has progressed so much since her illness, we were just having the typical green horse issues. By my class time on Sunday, we just weren’t ready. Between my trainer and me, we decided to wait until the next show.

I rationalized this because I didn’t want Elle to have a bad experience. I didn’t want to get discouraged. I knew we were going to have mistakes in the Hunter Under Saddle because of our rocky transitions. I knew our Equitation on the flat pattern would be rough and most likely an eye sore. In the end, I knew we would only be mediocre, and I couldn’t bring myself to face that. I hated knowing that I didn’t even have a chance.

I have firsthand experience on the burnout train, and nothing gets you off the tracks faster than just focusing on winning all the time. Yes, that’s what we spend all this ridiculous amount of money for. And God knows, we ain’t trotting around in two point, sweating bullets in the summer heat just to come in second. When I set goals for myself, I set them to first place.

But at some point, in the day to day training and even at the weekend shows, it can’t all be about winning. Yes, that can be the ultimate goal, but I know personally, winning can’t be the judge that decides if your happy with your horse or yourself. It’s almost too obvious to say, but satisfaction needs to come from the quality of your ride, improving the ability of your horse, and you taking another step towards being a better rider. At the end of the day, this is a judged sport, and you can’t win them all even if you deserve to.

I can tell myself this until I am blue in the face, and I almost start to believe it. But in the end, it has always come down to where I place no matter what I tell myself. For me, not winning is a fear. So to just forget about the placings and go in the class solely to have the best ride I can is a very confusing notion. I know this will be my struggle as I come to the next show. My brain tells me I can’t focus on the winning, but my heart says go for the win. Ultimately, I know to be successful, I am going to have to switch my thinking. There is no longevity in tunnel vision on first place.  Eventually I will get to the point where my best go will mean winning, but I have to accept that I’m not there yet. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially in the AQHA world.

So until that next show, I have parked Elle and I at our trainers so that we can be one step closer to good rides and our first win. We are passing the time cantering slow, cantering slower, two pointing, and sweating. Hopefully in my spare time, I will rationalize this mindset change and have one less thing to worry about at the show. Hopefully…

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