Insiders Guide: Show Time. Managing what goes on between yours and your horse’s ears
Pro and Non-Pro articles written by Jen Jonas of Jonas Performance Horses (Pro) and Sharon Jones of Be A Better You (Non-Pro).
Together, they are J&J Reining Inc. Both Jen and Sharon are believers in continual learning – if you’re not learning you’re not growing.
Sharon: For the past 10 years, I’ve been showing in Reining. When riding at home I can feel at one with the horse and we can execute great maneuvers. But the minute I enter the show pen, what’s between my ears turns to marshmallow fluff and I seem to expect the horse to take over the controls. You can imagine how well that goes…
My last show was September 2020. I was riding my 4 y/o, Bentley, I was feeling anxious and Bentley was jumpy in the warm-up pen just before the class. I know horses pick up on their riders, I never appreciated how much. I took us out of the warm-up pen, and managed to calm myself down by slowing my breathing and relaxing my muscles. Miraculously, Bentley also calmed down. We managed a decent run.
This event opened up my thinking - I wanted to know how to get a grip on what’s going on between my ears when I go to a show. I read a book called ‘The Inner Game’ which was written for tennis players, the book helps with what I’ve been describing – how to manage what your mind focuses on. I picked up a lot from it yet, in reining, we have another set of ears with us – our equine partner, and what’s going on between their ears can also make or break a good run.
Matt Mills put me on to Gilead Friedman, who operates ‘Mental Athletics – Athlete’s Mindset Training’. Gil is an Israeli native, he has been around horses since the age of 6, has competed at high levels in the US and has clients all over the globe. When I talked with Jen about it, she was already looking in to Gil’s three-part webinar series, we both signed up for it. We also had a conversation with Gil, for this article.
Gil shared a lot of great insight with us, more than we can fit here. This was the big take-away for me from what Gil said: “People think equestrian sports is a solo sport, but it’s not – you enter the show pen with a team-mate. I do not believe the most talented rider wins the class or the most talented horse. It’s the team. The rider is the competitor, the horse is the athlete. We choose to live the competitive life; we choose to be observed, judged and evaluated on our riding abilities. The horse does not know he is being evaluated, he does know something in the show pen is different, and that difference is the rider. A strong rider takes the pressure off the horse so he can perform well under the rider’s guidance.”
There was a lot of great information on the webinars – plenty of strategies and practical tips on how to manage yourself in the show pen!
Jen: Watching the webinars has given me great insight into how I can improve my coaching program for my clients, and my training program for my horses. My thinking has opened up for how I can improve my awareness not only when we are in the warmup pen or showing, but also at home.
Gil’s methods have encouraged me to be fully consciousness when I’m riding at home, so I can be aware of where my head is at during different times in the ride. For example, if I’m having trouble in a maneuver with a horse that usually excels in this particular maneuver, I now stop and take note of where my head and body are at, where I may be tense. I assess and make the necessary changes to improve/fix this situation. It makes training much less stressful for the horse and for me; the more I can practice this process the more it will become a force of habit.
I am excited to implement Gil’s methods in my coaching program so not only am I coaching to my best ability, my clients will know how to perform to their best ability!
Links to Gil’s information:
Watch this space – we’re hoping to have Gil host a series for J&J Reining Inc!
Images: Gil Friedman showing and coaching