Mental Health 2: Electric Boogaloo

As the days get shorter, I want to talk to you once more about something I feel very passionately about: mental health!

While October is for sure my favorite month of the year (Pumpkins! Pretty leaves! Drizzly gray days! Not feeling sweat dripping down my back when I do literally anything!), I head into the winter every year with the same attitude as I approach a root canal: let me get to the other side in one piece, and then I can actually return to the land of the living.

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Just wrap me in several sweaters and stick me in storage til April kthanksbye

Advice that historically has not helped me cope with Satan’s Season:

  • “Oh, you’ll grow out of it someday.” STILL WAITING
  • “Try smiling more!” YES LET ME FAKE SOME MORE EMOTIONS, SEEMS HEALTHY
  • “Just remember that it’s all in your head.” tHaT iS lItTeRaLlY tHe EnTiRe PrObLeM

However, over the years I have managed to find a few things that make a truly noticeable difference in my ability to navigate the uncaring ocean of my brain chemistry from November through March:

  • Drinking too much water. Staying hydrated gives me so much more energy, keeps me more mentally focused, helps stave off headaches, clears my skin, and keeps me moving. You know, because of all the bathroom breaks. Seriously though- I can’t emphasize enough how much of an effect this has on every aspect of my life.
  • Making my bed every morning. This creates a definite separation for me from bed time to awake time. Literally as soon as I’ve gotten out of bed, I’ve accomplished something! Sometimes that’s the momentum I need to start my day. And then when I get home in the evening I feel like I’m coming home to a neat, clean room. Even if the bed is the only neat and clean thing about it.
  • Cutting out caffeine. I know, this sounds like sacrilege to you coffee-addicts out there. But I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker, even in the summer! My sleep schedule definitely gets more sensitive when the days get shorter so I tend to cut out caffeine all together. I stick with herbal teas or cocoa when I’m craving a warm drink, but my best friend is my Nalgene filled with- you guessed it- water. Otherwise I end up staying awake for 3 days in a row and I wish I was exaggerating.
  • Staying active. That physical momentum is so helpful. And I like the way my body feels when I’m fit- I look pretty much the same all the time, but I can definitely feel the difference when my fitness starts slipping. I even invested in some stupid expensive equipment to make exercising fun, and his name is Francis.
  • Buying a horse. For realz, Frankie has been the biggest bro in the world. He gives me a huge reason to stay active- he thrives on exercise, we need to stay in shape to keep progressing, etc. He also gives good structure to my days- I can’t just go home and shlump into bed. I gotsta get dem endorphins going. And I can’t leave out the fact that he’s just the sweetest creature on the planet. He doesn’t care that there might be a few crossed wires upstairs, he just thinks it’s neat that I scratch his ears and take him on adventures. He is a never-ending source of quiet affection. Also owning a horse means I’m too distracted by stress about money to remember that I’m depressed!
  • Giving myself days off. Between work, the barn, going home to see family, celebrating birthdays, going out for happy hour, and other social events, sometimes it feels like I have something on the calendar every single day. And while I genuinely like people, I NEED my alone time to rejuvenate and re-energize. So sometimes I’ll pencil in a day to just lay around in my pajamas, watch Netflix, drink tea, and be a lazy garbage person. These garbage person days make me less of a garbage person on the other days. It’s a delicate garbage balance.

I’ve also built in a bunch of fun things to look forward to this winter: I’m visiting family and bringing Manfriend, we’re taking a trip to Florida with my roomie and her manfriend, I’ll be taking time to go compete at WEC with the Frankenator, all sorts of things like that.

So while I’m already looking forward to the warm spring breezes that bring allergens to make Manfriend sneeze real cute, I feel good about the robust preparation I’m putting into making this winter an enjoyable season instead of just a survivable one. I know there will still be ups and downs, and I’ve got the warm fuzzies thinking about the absolutely stellar support system I have- both two-legged and four-legged.

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My attraction to tall, strong, gorgeous, emotionally stable males is extremely helpful

For all of you: I would love to be part of your support system. As mentioned, I genuinely like people (weird, I know) and I like crazy people the best. I have no answers to big questions and give pretty crappy advice (usually I just tell you to hydrate more), but I’d love to chat at any time. Unless I’m sleeping. Hit me up but not before 7am or after 10pm thanks.

Cheers to a fantastic season of fun adventures and progress in all of our personal and professional endeavors!

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Growing Up and Glowing Up

I’m super thrilled about my new job- getting to do super interesting work for a cause I believe in, meeting fascinating intelligent people, and getting to take advantage of some really great work-culture benefits. I miss my friends from my old job, but this definitely feels like a great next step in my career.

As part of feeling like I’m stepping into a big-girl job though, I’m trying to present myself in a more polished way. I was able to get away with t-shirts and no makeup at my last job and as a researcher, it was totally fine. My new office is still casual, but I now work extensively with more senior officers- I don’t want to look like that stereotypical sloppy millennial who will never be able to afford a house because I’m too busy buying my horse things he doesn’t need eating avocado toast.

Even though that describes me in a nutshell.

A big step for me was getting the damn haircut. I looked like a sister wife. It wasn’t just “oh I grew my hair out” long, it was “I joined a cult and now showing my ankles is a sin” long. So taking care of that was a step in the right direction.

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Here’s the haircut but more importantly, I have a desk fountain now.

I also went ahead and got some new clothes from Target. Guys, their new stuff is AWESOME. My rules for work clothes are (1) no dry cleaning and (2) it has to be comfortable. So I swapped out some of my more tired pieces and got some cute stuff to wear to work that makes me feel more put-together.

The last piece of the puzzle was updating my makeup game. This one was harder for me-most days I’m up at 6:45, out the door by 7:30 to get to work, and it’s not unusual for me to stroll back into the house close to 9:30pm. And while I don’t need my makeup to last at the barn, I do need it to last from when I apply it at 7am until at least 5ish when I leave the office. Usually closer to 5:30pm. So I need stuff that will go the distance with me.

Lo and behold- as soon as I started thinking about this, Alli from Rocking E Cowgirl just so happened to be offering some lip products for testing and reviewing! I’m not one to question the universe when things line up like that, so I happily participated in testing the Senegence Lipsense in the Apple Cider color.

My main criteria I needed in order to be happy with it were:

  1. It has to last all day with minimal work (I am lazy and won’t do touch ups)
  2. I don’t want dry flaky lips
  3. Seriously, don’t make me touch it up
  4. The color has to be versatile because I really don’t want to carry 20 different lipsticks in my purse

I’ve been using it for a few months now, and I’m really happy with it! I don’t get any of the dry lips that I usually get with other long-lasting lip colors, the color is just enough without being too flashy, and I’d definitely consider it long-lasting.

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Perfectly intact by the time I made it to the barn at 6pm

The gloss that goes on top definitely needs touching up throughout the day, but I tend to go for more of a matte look at work anyways. The color doesn’t budge through coffee, water bottles, lunch, etc.

I will note that it takes a bit of time to apply properly- it’s not the type of lipstick you can swipe and go. On days that I’m in a rush and I don’t have the time to apply it properly, it comes off much more easily. Alli was super awesome about giving me a little tutorial on how to apply it correctly, and when I do that it will honestly stay put until I use makeup remover before bed.

Overall, I’d give this product a solid 4/5, with the only ding being the time it takes to apply.

Go ahead and contact Alli at rockingeboarding@gmail.com if you’d like more information, or if you’re interested in ordering some of your own!

The Money Talk

Everyone says that if you want to keep the peace, avoid talking about politics or money.

You’re in luck for the first- I don’t plan to ever talk about politics on this blog beyond urging y’all to get involved in your state and local governments.

But screw it. I’m gonna talk about money.

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Frankie gets top notch care and we compete at some bigger shows, all of which comes with a price tag. One that I’ve always been willing to pay because I’m an idiot who can’t stay away from the barn, but one that I could only kinda afford to pay.

I don’t know how it comes across in this blog, but I was making a lot of sacrifices to make it work. A LOT. And it was only kiiiiinda working thanks entirely to the flexibility and understanding of my support network. The bills got paid every month. By a hair.

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Every month after bills

I started making a list of all the luxury items I would get down the road once I was able: underwear without holes in it. Makeup that isn’t just a sample I got from Birchbox in 2014. Windshield wipers for my car that actually, ya know, wipe the windshield. A damn haircut. The cheese I keep seeing at the grocery store that I’ve never actually tried but looks amazing.

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How I feel about the cheese aisle at Wegman’s

I’ll be honest: if I could go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t. Budgeting down to the nickel, being super disciplined with my spending, and maintaining that level of awareness of my finances were all skills that I needed to learn and carry forward. The opportunities I got to pursue were worth every moment of stress about how to pay for it, and there is a definite sense of pride that at the age of 25, I’m able to do what I love every day because I’ve worked hard for it.  

I don’t regret any of it- given the choice between anything else and doing another class at a show, I’d pick competing more every single time. As long as Frankie was getting what he needed to be solidly ready for his job, I was fine ignoring everything else.

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Right? RIGHT?!

But I did make a few big shifts lately- changed my budget, adjusted some spending, made some huge life changes (new job, new apartment), and took some steps to get into a healthier place financially.

I didn’t realize what a constant source of near-panic my finances were for me until they weren’t anymore. There was such a physical sense of relief from making these changes that I literally giggled out loud to myself.

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After a year-ish of stress (definitely a coincidence that I bought a horse a year-ish ago) I’m finally at a point where I’m able to do both- take care of Frankie AND myself. Nothing crazy, but I can now say yes to the occasional happy hour and have non-holey underwear and get the damn haircut. My life balance is shifting a little.

For my barn life, this will hopefully mean more horse shows next season (including a solid 2 weeks in the winter at Ocala or WEC), more frequent preventative vet visits for Frankie as I ask for harder work, more professional training rides for him, and more non-traditional care- I’m excited to see how he likes chiro/acupuncture/massage. He’s a sturdy dude and isn’t showing any signs of discomfort, but I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to get some extra pampering.

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I think the conventional takeaway from the past year would be “learn from your mistakes, don’t overextend!” But like I said, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Only other horse people can understand the near-compulsion to keep coming back to the barn and trying again no matter the cost.

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but holy crap am I glad to have a break. Frankie’s earned a massage (and so have I).

Moving On: June Edition

I’ve kinda roundabout hinted at some exciting news to share, and I finally have the green light to make it public:

I have a new job!

After four great years with my current company, I decided it was time to move on to a different industry. I’ll have more of a business and strategy focus in my new role- I think it’ll be really challenging but equally rewarding. And don’t worry, I already asked about flex time for horse shows (literally mentioned horse shows in my first interview) and they assured me that they’re on board with show season. They already realize where the true priorities lie.

I’m lucky that everyone at my current company has been really supportive and encouraging about this move. I’ll definitely miss seeing my amazing coworkers every day, but so many of them have become like family to me at this point and I know we’ll still spend time together outside of work hours.

Along with moving jobs, I’m also moving houses! For those of you who have followed along for a while, you may remember that Roommate and I had to move suddenly due to our old apartment flooding last June. Well, a full year has passed and we opted not to renew our lease- cue Roommate taking charge (as usual) and making awesome things happen (as usual), and we will be inhabiting a much larger townhouse just 12 minutes away. We can’t wait for more space, more sunlight, more room for the dog to play, it’s going to be AMAZEBALLS.

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Derp dog just wants a comfy place to snooze

But here’s the extra fun part about moving: we don’t overlap at all with our current lease. In fact, we have to be out of our current place by a Tuesday and can’t move in until Friday. So really we have to move twice. Awesome.

June is shaping up to be wildly hectic:

Last day at new job on a Wednesday.
Two days in Richmond (Thurs-Fri) to celebrate Manfriend’s graduation.
Zooming back up north to Upperville for the weekend.
Moving out of our apartment (Monday) and couch surfing for the week.
Moving into our new townhouse (Friday).
Flying north to Rhody (Saturday) to visit family for a week.
Flying back to VA (Thursday) to celebrate Manfriend’s birthday (Friday).
Starting my new job at the end of June (Monday).

#PrayForMe #SleepWhenImDead #AlreadyExhausted

Luckily Francis continues to be an absolute rockstar despite my lack of consistent saddle time recently. We had a great lesson this week (that I need to write about because we had some fun breakthroughs) and we’re getting really excited for Upperville.

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Frankie’s instinct when I botch into the combo and have to boot out is to straight up levitate through because DAMMIT MOM STOP GUNKING UP THE WORKS. Yeah, we need a lesson recap to talk about this.

We’ve also had some time to chill together lately and enjoy the (rare) sunshine. Francis enjoys these relaxing hacks around the property and I love the break too!

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I will never be sick of this view.

The ring expansion is in the final stages, and Trainer shared some details for the final landscaping/fencing that I think will be incredibly cool. Once everything is final and I can snap some pics, I’d love to take you all on a virtual tour of our new outdoor.

So lots of things in the works for the month of June!! I’m so excited to share updates as we make some big life changes.

Not Dead Yet!

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Even though my body has been trying hard to kill  me- I was out of work almost every day this week with a KILLER sinus infection. Currently taking 4 different types of pills every day (most of them multiple times a day) and FINALLY I’m on the mend. After spending most of the week watching roughly forty million episodes of Forensic Files it’s really nice to get out of the house.

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Pretty sure I could solve any murder cases now tho

I’m super behind on responding to comments and I gotta be honest- my energy levels and breathing ability are telling me to just give up and start from scratch. So just know that I’ve read and appreciated all of your comments lately.

Not a ton to report, so I’ll just give a quick rundown on what’s been going on in the magical land of pressure headaches:

We have discovered that in the case of the torn-up blankets, Frankie is the culprit. I have failed as a mother. My low-maintenance, angel of a horse is a blanket shredder *sob*. One of these bad boys is currently being shipped to my place so my fellow boarders don’t have to keep buying new blankets (sorry guys!!!).

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Maybe Francis can be Bane for Halloween next year with this sucker
Assistant Trainer has been hopping on Frankie for me while I’ve been convalescing. Super duper grateful that she was able to make space in the rotation for an extra horse at very short notice, and very happy that he’s gotten some professional tuning up as we head into show season.

I spent some time scrubbing my tack HARD the other day and it was so beyond satisfying. I wipe down my tack regularly but this was a super intense cleaning. I also took the opportunity to switch out the nameplate on my saddle to one that, you know, has my own name on it (and by this I mean I hovered nearby while Assistant Trainer did it because she is actually the best). Womp womp. It only took over a year.

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I haven’t mentioned it lately, so friendly reminder that I am obsessed with my saddle in all ways. It is the light of my life.
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OH NO NOW YOU KNOW MY FULL NAME PLS DON’T USE THIS INFORMATION FOR EVIL

My brother and his wife came down for a visit recently and met the Frankfurter, and it was super fun getting to chill with them. My brother is way cooler than me in every way (unlike when he forced me to say this as a child, I actually mean it now) and his wife is even cooler than he is- combined, they are legit a mega awesome power couple.

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We look a lot alike. Especially when we both have luxurious long hair and matching bags under our eyes. He’s a beautiful woman.

Speaking of embarrassing pictures, this gem showed up in my memories on Facebook and I thought you might like a laugh. This was taken with a disposable camera at the sweet age of 13 during summer camp. I was clearly not a cute preteen, like, at ALL.

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Every time I look, I find something new to cringe at

I’ll be hopping on Frankie today to get my sea legs back, and we’re still planning on showing this Sunday! I am extremely eager to get out there and kick our show season off. I’ll need extra sustenance and rest to offset the sickness but GET AT ME.

And that concludes this episode of Random Stuff Happening Lately! More updates as events warrant.

 

Happy Blogiversary!

Somehow without realizing it, my second blogiversary came and went this past weekend! I’ll soon return to my lesson recaps and upcoming show schedule (spoiler alert, there are two on the near horizon), but here’s a fun little view of how Hellomylivia has grown over the past few years:

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As you may remember, I took a little hiatus in Dec/Jan of last year because I couldn’t handle living my life like a normal person needed to step back and slow down for a bit. Womp womp. But since then, we’ve been back and better than ever! We’ve managed to even out through the rest of 2016 and I’m hoping to keep up that momentum in the new year!

I started breaking things down further, getting all math-y and creating roughly 900 MILLION graphs. But you know what, guys? I live my life in numbers and spreadsheets. This blog is my escape from the constant number crunching. So you will take my lone graph and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

Or not. No skin off my nose.

We started when I was riding Addy in the 2’6″ Hunters

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And now we have our boy Francis prepping for the 1.10m Jumpers

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Clearly the quality of media has gone downhill

I’ve met some of my closest friends through this blog, learned new skills (website, social media, horsemanship, and myriad other areas), explored my creative side, and have gotten to join in with a community that I never even knew existed.

Thank you to all of you for following along (especially to my Superstar Commenters: Micaylah, Stacie, Carey, Monica, Heather, and Alli). I know that this blog provides no real benefit to anyone besides myself: I don’t have cool coupon codes, I rarely do meaningful product reviews, and I ask for advice constantly while giving little advice back. So the fact that you still join in for this journey just tickles me pink. It means the world to me to have you all coming along on these adventures with me.

Cheers to 2 years in Blogland!

THE BIG 2-5!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEEE

If you need me, I’ll be hugging my horse and thanking him for being the best goober in the world, eating brinner and drinking wine with my roommate, and telling every person I come in contact with that TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAYYYYYY AND I AM A BIRTHDAY PRINCESS. I’ll be the one in the tiara.

Cheers to the next quarter century!!!

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Still Alive

I’m still around, I promise! I’ve gotten to work on a big assignment at the office lately- super exciting stuff that will hopefully open some doors, but it also has meant some pretty late hours and weekends. Frankie has been getting some guest rides from some of the other ammies at the barn- I warn them all that he’s wIlD aNd CrAzY but they just laugh at me. I’ll be hopping on for my lesson tonight (if I can escape the office early enough) for my first ride in a week!

Once I have the chance to breath a bit and have some actual spare time to do laundry/grocery shop/do anything besides work and sleep I pinky promise I will have some fun stuff to share.

Until then, enjoy these self-indulgent pictures of Manfriend and myself at the Marine Corps Ball last weekend- my one escape from the office.

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Wearing actual makeup that I did myself! Nothing classier than a bathroom selfie.
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I did this! Doing updos on the prom circuit is my backup career for when this analysis stuff falls through.
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Wasn’t even an open bar. Jipped.
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What’s better looking than a Marine in dress blues? Trick question. Nothing. Literally nothing.
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Except maybe multiple Marines in dress blues.
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My new favorite picture of me and Manfriend, I just wish it was less grainy.

And just you wait until the professional picture comes in. I won’t share too much, but the aesthetic is “Early 90s rap album.” You’re gonna love it.

Updates on Frankie and the barn once I get those updates myself!

 

AHA: Ask Him Anything

Ok folks, here’s the deal. Manfriend is psyched to chime in again, but needs your help.

His fun idea is this: you ask anything in the comments on this post, and he promises to faithfully and fully answer all of them, no matter how ridiculous.

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Oldie but a goodie of this sweet goat-whispering nutcase

I will warn you that he is actually a lunatic. So bring on the crazy questions and you will get a crazy (and wildly entertaining) answer. Promise. Anything you’ve ever wanted to ask the allergic-to-horses SO of an insane horse girl, he will answer with hilarity and wisdom but mostly just hilarity.

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Ask him questions like one of your French girls

Please also remember that my parents read this blog (hi Mom and Dad!) , so lets keep this at least moderately appropriate. This is a family establishment, after all.

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Doing normal human adult things see?!?!11/1??

Get your questions in by the end of the week!

Speak Up and Ride Hard

I mentioned recently that public speaking is totally my jam. I love it, and I’m pretty confident up there! But this hasn’t always been the case- despite wanting to be good at public speaking, I wasn’t very strong at it.

I’d be so excited to get up to the podium, and I’d get up there smiling. And then my eyes would go wide and I’d get that wavery shaky voice we all get when we’re terrified. Cue the cold sweat.

I was able to speak in front of clients at a recent conference hosted my by company, and it was the first time I’ve ever gotten up there and jumped in without feeling like I needed my inhaler and a double dose of Xanax. I was able to pull up my slides, say good morning, and hop right into my topic.

And the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between public speaking and competing at a horse show of any level or discipline.

  • The preparation: you don’t present at a conference without thoroughly knowing and practicing your material. You go through your topic, update and refine your slides, and then practice practice practice until you know all of the details backwards and forwards. You study the information to be able to answer any questions that pop up. By the time you reach the podium, you’ve done your homework.

Just so with riding: you don’t get to a show and think “CRAP I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO POST THE TROT.” You do that at home until it becomes second nature, and then you go compete with your professional-as-hell posting trot. You learn the rules for your discipline, you practice your test, you practice HOW to learn courses to test your memory. You figure out what to do if something goes wrong- you do your homework so you can answer the questions.

  • The nerves: despite your preparation, you step up to the podium and realize your hands are shaking. You’ve done all the hard work and in theory everything should just fall into place, but suddenly you wonder if you can do this. But once you take a deep breath and pause for a moment, your nerves settle and you’re able to speak without stumbling. You find places to pause during your talk to catch your breath and it lends you the presence of mind to continue on smoothly even when you trip over your tongue.

You reach the show and realize that even though you’ve schooled 2’6″ courses at home a million times, the 18″ class you’ve entered looks HUGE. Everything is scary and overwhelming. But then you take a deep breath and pause, and you ride the way you know you can. You find places to stretch up and breath on course, and that lends you the presence of mind to continue on smoothly even when bobbles come up.

  • The audience: you look out on a sea of judgemental faces. “Ohmanohmanohman they probably know more than me and they think I’m an idiot.” Except no- they’ve shown up to hear you talk about the topic. You’re the one that has put in the work, and they’re choosing to listen. Suddenly you realize that they aren’t there to condemn you and pick you apart, they’re there to listen and learn.

You see the judge staring out of the booth with his judgey judge face, and pass a sea of unimpressed juniors and ammies. “They all think I’m such an idiot who can’t actually ride.” Except no- the judge will see a bazillion people that day and unless he’s a total dick, won’t actually think you’re a bad person even if you hit a rail or two. Most of those ammies have been in your shoes and genuinely want to cheer you on. Most of those juniors- well, they’re probably bratty teenagers- but WHO CARES. There are two groups of people at the show: people who are supportive and encouraging and push you to learn, and people we don’t give a flying rat’s ass about.

  • The aftermath: you finish up, say thank you, and leave the stage. Your heart is still pumping with adrenaline, but it’s in a good way. How cool was that! It may not have been perfect, and you may have said “sequins” instead of “consequence,” but probably no one noticed. You made it through in one piece and feel such a sense of accomplishment and pride that you did this.

You come out of the ring grinning and patting your pony, still trying to catch your breath. Sure, you put 5 strides in the 6 and 4 strides in the 3, but you made it through in one piece. You’re so proud of the progress that you and your steed have made.

  • The familiarity: you’ve given a couple speeches by now. When you get up to the podium, you smile at the crowd and launch right in. You know your stuff, you like your audience, and any slips of the tongue are easy to laugh off. It’s exciting in a good way.

This isn’t your first show anymore. You’re there to compete, strut your stuff, and learn. You know what you’re doing, you like what you’re doing, and a round doesn’t need to be perfect for you to have a good time. It’s exciting in a good way.

With riding, as with speaking, the only real way to conquer nerves is to prepare and then to DO IT. It’s so hard to get over fear of public speaking if you never speak in public. It’s so hard to get over show nerves if you never show.

I’ve been participating in a Toastmasters group with some coworkers, and I sincerely believe that strengthening my confidence with public speaking has a strong effect on my ability to think on my feet while in the saddle. I look at it as mental cross-training for the show ring.

As someone who has always mentally blanked-out a bit on course, I’m excited to put my new skills to the test this weekend for a strong finish to our first show season together!

What do you think of this metaphor? Do you do any sort of “mental cross-training?”