My Top 4 Tips for a Successful 2019 Horse Show Season
As I reflect on the 2018 reined cow horse show season and get ready for 2019, I’m excited to share my four best tips to horse showing success. After posting my redemption story and the NRCHA Celebration of Champions results article, I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for the support of my friends on social media. Connecting with so many people around the country is the coolest thing ever! You've wished us luck, cried with us, told me I've inspired you to go show, my words are doing a poor job of expressing my gratitude right now.
I feel like giving payback, to help you cut the corners that I had to go through. There’s no better feeling than hearing someone say, “... because of you, I'm going to start showing, I’m going to chase my dreams.”
Here are my top 4 tips for a successful horse show season in 2019:
1 | Get your horse in great shape.
This tip pertains to my entire 2018 show year, but also the 2018 NRCHA World Championship Show, specifically. It’s easy to think that means riding five, six days a week, that it's got to be an hour a day, and it's got to be hard work. We overachievers - we think it's gotta be lots of hard rides. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I found it was best to ride Hook three to four days a week of long trotting, loping, doing certain kinds of lengthening and shortening the stride exercises. No overtraining. No hardcore training.
When we were riding at Lance Johnston’s place last fall, I asked him how he gets his horses ready to show down the fence. He said the worst thing that you can do is make several physically demanding runs at home a couple of days before you go to the show. What’s going to happen is you are going to frustrate your horse mentally, because it's too hard for him. It's going to make him sore.
How are you going to get the best possible run out of your horse if you physically and mentally exhaust him right before a show?
It’s the same as when you work out. What happens to your body two to three days after a hard workout? You're sore. I don't care how good of shape you're in, if you do an intense workout and you push yourself to the max, you're going to get sore. It's the same thing for these horses.
If you're going to show on a Saturday, you take the two weeks before the show to make sure your horse is paying attention, he's rating his cow, he's hitting his stops, his turnarounds are quick. Then, you spend the week before the show doing things to make sure his mind is where it needs to be, he’s soft, he’s supple, he’s listening to you, he’s happy, and he’s respectful.
I would call it strategically riding your horse. You see so many people doing the opposite. Even the day of the show they're in the practice pen, overriding their horses. It’s a mistake in my little, wee opinion. Don't do that. Just be smart about it. Your horse is incredible. Have faith in him, that he's going to go out and do his job. If you hammer on him two or three days before the show, it is not going to do an ounce of good in the show pen.
2 | Get good help.
I have not been showing cow horses at this level for very long, but I've been a wannabe for many years. What held me back was my refusal to get some help. I thought I could do it myself. No, no, no! If you're like me and you're trying to do this yourself, with no help, or you're just getting started, that's your starting point. Get you some good help.
Here's a little story of how I finally came to my senses and got help.
Back in July of 2016, I entered the Bridle Horse Class on Hook at the Masten Ramsey in Alturas, California., We did okay in the reining, but we marked a 62 down the fence because I couldn't even get Hook near a cow. He was not broke. I could not get him to hunt that cow like he’s supposed to. I had no idea why.
When I got home from that horse show, I got a text from a friend who said that Brandon Staebler was having a clinic soon. I'm like, “I'm going! I need some help! I'm gonna go!”
I spent two days at his clinic, and he definitely helped me. It was really good to see his teaching style and what I loved best was he did not overtrain or override the horses. That's where the secret is - less is more. After that, I started taking lessons, weekly to every other week. We worked on simple things that added up to the good stuff, with focus and consistency.
Getting professional help from someone who knows what they’re doing, who does it for a living, was the most critical element. If you're in the Klamath Falls, Oregon area, I highly recommend you go see the Staebler's. They go above and beyond what’s expected to get you ready to compete and win. They have you prepared. They know the business very well. The connections they have from their experience and years of being in the industry are invaluable.
3 | Focus on your own health, fitness, and nutrition.
This one is definitely at the top, as far as giving you an edge. If you can get yourself in the best shape of your life, you’ll have an advantage. You ask your horse to be in great shape, now why in the hell would you not want the same thing for yourself? Your whole body needs to be strong, you need strong legs, a strong, tight core, and strong arms. You need conditioning. You get your horse conditioned, you need that for yourself, too, so you have the stamina to survive the long, grueling days.
What does being in the best shape of your life do to your confidence level? The mental toughness and the confidence - ain't no one can take that away from you!
It is worth it to figure out how to clear off your schedule. It only takes about 30 minutes a day. I do four hardcore workouts in a week. The other three days, I'm stretching, working on flexibility, balance training, or yoga. I do workout every day, but it's not always hardcore. It’s the same as what I'm doing with my horse. Every day cannot always be high intensity because all it’s going to do is wear out your body. You need a mix in there, not overtraining yourself. You can do that.
Need a starting point for getting in great shape to ride? Join our monthly Healthy Habits for Healthy Horsewomen FREE 21 Day Challenge:
Next, let’s talk about nutrition. At the 2018 NRCHA World Championship Show, I ate very smartly. I ate zero sugar, very low carb, lots of vegetables. I intermittent fasted, and I made sure I stayed hydrated, I drank my water, and I took my electrolytes. I did not live on coffee and donuts for breakfast. I did not drink beer every single night, even though it was tempting. But when you have to get up early to school horses, the last thing you need to try and do is get your mind right and your motor running after too much beer the night before.
You have got to be focused enough to be on point, to get your nutrition in order. Thank goodness for a little program that I created and have available for people to go through. It’s called the Cowgirl Up Diet. Because of it, I stay mentally sharp, I have energy, I’m not lethargic. My mood stays steady. Mostly because of the way I eat.
If you need to get rid of the sugar cravings, lose weight and keep it off for good, check out the Cowgirl Up Diet:
4 | Follow your passion and go for it!
If this is something that you want to do, if you have an ounce of passion in your finger, or anywhere on your body, you have got to pursue it. Go for it.
If you have a desire and you're like, “Oh, that'd be fun, I'd really like to do this..” And then the yeah-buts happen, like “...but I don't have time.” “...but the kids are still in school.” “...but I don't have enough money.” “...but I don't have the horse.” Bull! All that stuff will work itself out when you follow your passion.
That doesn't mean you take one huge leap from, “I think I'd like to... blah blah” to BAM you're at this wonderful, winning level. No, you take that next logical step. If you're sitting there with no horse, you figure out how you can ride somebody's horse. If you have the horse, but you don't have the trainer, you figure out how you can get a trainer. Then you map out your schedule. You take it one day at a time, one piece at a time, the next logical step at a time.
Set some big, outrageous goals for the future. But the way you get there is by focusing on today. You always figure out how you can get outside of your comfort zone, just a little bit more.
We all get inspired by watching, say, the World's Greatest Horseman, and we see somebody like Abby Phillips right? The only girl amongst some badass trainers and see her kick ass. Now tell me that's not inspiring!
Whenever you see greatness, if you want to do it too, you make your own plan. You take it one day at a time, and you go for it. You have to. You owe it to yourself. That passion is planted in your heart for a reason. You were born to enjoy and expand in this crazy, beautiful world. If it includes horses in your life, you go for it. You follow your passion.
That's what I have for you today. Thank you so much for reading this! I want to say good luck, and if I'm anywhere where we can meet in person, please come say hi. I'd love to hug you. Thank you for following me on my journey and look forward to the 2019 season.