Recently the question of ring nerves came up which forced me to reflect on my lack of them.
Is it that I don't care? No, I care very much about my chosen sports.
Why then can I stand on a start line at an agility Nationals course between top competitors who travel globally and do my job without feeling ill? Why can I take a horse into a clinic or show ring and ride just like at home? (In the interest of full disclosure let me admit here that often I find thinking about clinics more stressful than showing or being at a clinic.) A few things influence this perspective.
I practice. I practice with pressure. I visualize the show set up and practice while that is in my head. I practice when I have a cold, when I am mad, when I am emotional. I also practice for fun because I want to and because I enjoy it!
Practice is something I embrace.
I can breathe because I simply wouldn't be there if I didn't know I was capable of doing "it". I may have very different goals than the other people there but I know my goals are in reach. (My goal could be as simple as a straight halt in a test entry -actually I love it when the goal is that simple and early - makes the rest of the course a breeze!). I can breathe because I know my dogs are fit and healthy enough to do the job - if I had doubts about their condition I would have investigated and made an informed choice about running (or not - and I've made that choice many times).
It's not personal
What's the point of nerves? The only person it's personal to is me. Nobody else particularly cares if that event doesn't go the way I had planned. People might feel badly for me for a minute or chuckle for a day. But, honestly, if I show with integrity and a sense of fun even if there is a problem that people notice they leave me in my happy bubble noting the good out loud and the things to work on in my plan book. They don't even have to know I make notes because at the risk of repeating myself it isn't about them ... and they really don't mind if things don't go quite the way I planned.
This is the single biggest thing I wanted to focus on today.
Patience allows people to know that any competitive event is just one moment. It gives information for the next event. By being patient in training, in the development of understanding of the sport, in the work with youngsters and those who have moments of confusion, in taking the time to appreciate each stage of training and competition you are able to be patient in the ring. The building blocks of success will come if you can wait.
You might be thinking to yourself, "I am the least patient person on the planet, how can I do this?" Believe me, patience did not come naturally or easily to me. It is a learned skill. One that I began to appreciate as I began to be grateful for so much else in my life. Watch a plant grow. Rehearse counting to 10 before you do something (anything - I did this waiting to start my car)... teach yourself patience. The rewards are truly immeasurable.
Think then act and avoid reaction as much as possible. If ring stress hits you you will have plenty of experience to draw upon. Breathe, refocus - perhaps by thinking about your goal for that moment and grabbing the intention that put you in that place at that moment you can put some nerves to rest.
I was at a clinic with a young horse last year
. The clinician paid me an enormous compliment when she noted that my building blocks were solid and being at the clinic didn't change my expectations for that ride. It didn't change the way I rode, it didn't alter the work I wanted to accomplish. Quite literally my only goal was to have a good first off property experience with the baby. After one lap of the ring I had accomplished that. My patient perspective allowed us to have a lot of fun for 45 mins - trying new things and soaking up the clinicians expertise. It would have been easy to push for too much; to be too embarrassed to say I'm just here to get off the farm; to pretend the mare was further along than she was. Any of those things would have resulted in a nerve wracking experience even if all had gone well.
Patience is a virtue we in sports land must learn to exploit for our own benefit!