Winning Ways for Competitors During Quarantine
How do we competitive equestrians keep motivated with no shows in sight? How do we even stay engaged with our horses if our barns or yards have been completely closed for weeks? How do we manage our worries during this uncertain time?
We competitors structure our lives around plans and goals for the year. Our training and show schedules are designed with the intent to peak at the right time. This year, all bets are off. We really don’t know when we will be back in the show ring or what year-end competitions will look like. There is a lot of uncertainty.
In my experience, athletes who are coping best are doing two things that may seem contradictory:
Keeping a long term perspective while also staying in the moment.
What does that mean? The current circumstances have dictated that we need to have a long term view of our development and our horse’s training.
First, ask yourself: where do Î want to be by the end of the year? For now, we must define those goals solely in performance terms rather than in results terms—which may not be all bad, when you think about it.
Second, the only way to make those long term goals happen is to be in the present. As a rider, you know this in your core. To work effectively with a horse, you have to be here, working with what is right underneath you, right now. This is true with any sport, but horses are particularly good at insisting we stay present!
With that perspective in mind, here are some tips to help keep you mentally strong and making progress during quarantine.
• Don’t abandon your goals or plans. Stretch goals out and re-tool them, but that is all. It’s a great time to work on any rough edges in your riding and your horse’s development.
• Following from #1, keep yourself physically fit. Now you have more time to do cross training—let’s get to it! Remember, the shows will return. Make it your plan to come back stronger, not weaker. Your body and mind both gain immense benefits from working out; your sleep will improve too. (Just don’t work out right before bed.)
• Stay positive by being deliberately grateful. I mean this. Focus on what you are grateful for in this moment. Notice those things/people/experiences that bring even a small amount of joy. Expand on them in your mind. There is much research to show that those who explicitly practice gratitude are happier, healthier, and more creative than those who do not.
• Turn off the news. Put your phone away. Get the information you need, and leave it at that. Too much media is exhausting, anxiety-producing, and leads to a sense of helplessness. Stay focused on what you can do today to make it a good day for you and others around you.
• Stay connected! Do not allow yourself to be isolated. Schedule social time. This may take more effort than before. Casual barn time is gone now, so we have to be deliberate about scheduling calls or zoom meetings. That effort will be worth it. We are all in this together.
Last, this is undoubtedly a very stressful time. There is no way around that. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to a family member, friend, or professional. You are not alone. Remember we will get through this. Make it your goal to come through it with new strengths, new skills and new perspectives. If you do, you’ll be the real winner.