I like to win. So do you. If there’s a person out there who says they don’t like to win… on some level, they’re lying. I know that’s blunt but it’s true. The win is what we all chase. Knowingly or unknowingly, the win is the ultimate reward. I spent years focused on the win. And only the win.
Focusing on the win is all fine and dandy… unless you’re not winning. Then it’s just exhausting and heart breaking. In an earlier post, I talked about how our wins don’t define who we are. Neither do our losses. Reality is – everyone experiences a ton of both.
I struggled for years with how to win. Actually I should rephrase that. I struggled for a lot of years with how to KEEP winning. I’d experience success here and there, but following a success, there was always a period of prolonged ‘failure’. Looking back it wasn’t actually failure, but rather, the realistic peak for myself and my horses at the time. But back then, it just felt like I was running in place, unable to move forward. It wasn’t until just recently that I finally understand why I felt that way.
You see, I was groomed to focus on nothing but the win. I think this is a societal issue to be honest. We are raised to understand that competition is a healthy part of life but that success really does come down to the win. Well if success is how many wins you have… I wanted them all! Because of this way of thinking, I went into EVERYTHING, and I mean everything… a 500 horse finals or a 10 horse jackpot… focused on nothing other than that 1D cheque. If you talked to me before I ran down the alleyway, I was gonna win it. It didn’t matter if my horse had only ever been a 17.8 at Ponoka, this was going to be the one time she smoked a real run to win the show (I have to laugh at the irony in this sentence….. but… what happened with Famous was kind of a fairytale lol). The issue with this… When we ran an 18.2 to finish out of the money in the 2 or 3D, I was heartbroken and felt like a failure.
As usual, you’re probably struggling to keep up with my twisted little mind, wondering where in the heck I’m going with this. Ok, so stop for a second and think – when you pull into a jackpot or rodeo, what is going through your mind? What are your goals? Not for your lifetime (like come on, I’m not generally focused on running down the alleyway at the Thomas & Mack when I pull into Ponoka… but I’ve thought about that on other occasions) but for that day, weekend, event? If your mind instantly goes to winning a cheque… or even to the clock at all, chances are you’ve already set yourself up for failure. Now, I’m not saying that it’s not possible to be focused on winning and win. I’ll get to that later. But for now, if you’re struggling mentally AT ALL, get rid of that focus. Stop thinking about the fuel money you need to get home or the hundreds of dollars it cost you to enter. Stop thinking about how important it is to crack into the 17s on standard pattern. Stop thinking about everything you feel you stand to gain or lose! I’ll let you in on a secret… your horse doesn’t care about any of that. In fact, if he’s anything like Famous, he’s thinking about sleeping 98% of the time. I’m saying this all from experience. I’ve been there. Lots.
About a year and a half ago, an incredible horsewoman made a comment that really resonated with me. I was at her clinic for the very first time and someone had asked her about jackpotting. She responded that she went to a lot of jackpots, but she didn’t go in to win very often. I was instantly confused. To the point of spending the next two and a half months between this first clinic and the next one I took with her pondering this concept. By my second clinic I was in a better space mentally all round and I as ready to really delve into what this statement meant. Really understanding that statement has changed my world. In a big way.
To me, this statement is a mantra of sorts. “Don’t go in to win.” Sounds silly. It’s a competition… shouldn’t you always go in to win? The simple answer would be yes. The complex answer is no. Especially if you want your horse and yourself to stay sane and sound. At the time this revelation hit me, Famous was 5 and he was less than impressive. He had turned a few heads and pulled a few futurity cheques but more often than not, we were a bit of a trainwreck going down the alley. The reason? Lack of confidence and too high of expectations. It was the end of October when things changed for me. I had been on the fence about whether to turn Famous out for the winter or keep jackpotting him. The advice I was heeded was integral to our future successes. I was told to keep running him, with zero expectations. Don’t go in to win. Focus on correct and pretty. We won 6 jackpots in a row and were top 3 at anything we didn’t win. Famous built confidence and got faster and faster.
Ok, now I’m going to take a detour back to winning and expectations. It has taken a year and a half to mould myself and Famous into the fierce team that I can confidently claim us to be. There have been so many people we have met along the way that have helped us to become well, us. For the first time in my entire life, I feel confident in having some expectations when we run up the alleyway. I know.. I just finished saying that you shouldn’t do that haha. Here’s the thing… I’ve learned recently that there isn’t anything wrong with having expectations… IF you have the confidence and mindset to accept that you may not meet your expectations every single time out. Famous and I don’t always win. Most of the time we don’t actually go in to win… or even clock. We go in to be OUR best. When that happens, whether we win a cheque or not, I’m happy. If it doesn’t happen, we go back to the training pen to fix it. The point is, I’ve gained the confidence to accept whatever happens and know that I have the tools and patience to keep him winning.
So, the moral of the story or post is that the second you take away the pressure, you set yourself and your horse up to start gaining confidence… to start learning how to be winners I suppose. Set yourself up for success. Forget about the clock, and just do you. After all, your biggest competition is staring right back at you when you look in the mirror.