Podcast Episode 9: Going To Competitions With Your Horse - Your Questions Answered
Today Natasha answers all of your questions about competition - when you should compete, what you should think about, when is the right time, what mindset should you have going into competition... and more!
If you have any suggestions for future podcast content, people you would like Natasha to interview or if you are an equestrian that loves our message and would be interested in being interviewed, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Loving Natasha's message and wanting more? Check out our free web class on competition by CLICKING HERE.
Hello! Hello everyone! Good morning. Good afternoon. How are we doing? Let me know what the best thing that has happened to you in the last week, in the last seven nights in the last 168 hours, what's been the best thing. What are you grateful for? What are you rocking? What are you enjoying? What are you pondering what's going on? So I thought today we could talk about competition and we can, uh, focus about competition. And, um, that's like the theme of today. So everybody knows, Oh, I hope, you know, I love to compete. I'm actually feeling very unmotivated, very flat, very, very, um, down, because I don't have a competition to look forward to. Uh, that's just my makeup. That's just how I'm built. That's just how I am. I live for competition. I ride for competition. I do everything for that.
A lot of people aren't wired like that. They, they do things for a million other reasons which you should know, why do you ride and why do you train? And why do you do these things? These kinds of things. Uh, but yes, that's been taken away. So, um, and I get a lot of, um, pleasure. I love the pressure to shine at 2.03 on the 8th of October, um, in whatever weather, in whatever conditions, I just gotta bring it at 2.03. I love that pressure. And I love that. Um, expectation. A lot of other people, um, might be challenged by that pressure and that expectation that they have to perform at that time. You know, I don't care if the, if my rides for the two weeks prior to the competition has been bad. If the warmup is bad, if riding around the arena is bad, none of it matters - all that matters is what happens between those two white fences at 2.03 On the 8th of October or whatever it is.
So, um, let's, let's start your competition questions. How can I help you? How can I help you enjoy it? So you think you, I really want you to know, I start with that is not, how can I help you get 10% extra? How can I help you win? How can I help you be more successful in competition? Yes. But before we get to that, how can I help you enjoy the process? How can I help you look forward to the competition? How can I help you smile? Because that to me would be the most important thing. Would you like to win and really do amazingly well, if you, um, wanted to cry were so nervous, you couldn't breathe and hated every second of the day. I just don't get what the, that to me is not success. It's not about the external success. It's about how you get to be and how you get to experience every moment.
Okay. So I don't get nervous at comps, but when my horse starts getting nervous, I get nervous to get on him. Yeah. So if your horse is getting nervous at a new place or at a competition, firstly, is he picking up on you? And if he's not, and he's just upset and nervous, he needs you to look after him. He needs you to be his leader. He needs you to tell him everything's okay. I still remember when I took one of my first stallions to a competition and he, we didn't get them out of the float . He just was getting more and more and more agitated. And he was crashing around in there and I'm like, I gotta get on that. I gotta get on that. And, um, you know, we got him out of the float. There was like three of us hang on to him.
He was a massive 17, two and a half Stan, um, hand stallion. He was, he was everything. He was so big and so impressive. And I'm like, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? And then we had like three people hold him and saddling him and he's just snorting and spinning. And, and what's this and what's tha and snorting, and couldn't get on that. And I got on him, still people holding him. And I gave him a big pat and I said, Hey, Hey, everything's okay. I've got you. Everything's okay. And I kid you not this big 17, two and a half and half hand stallion that snorting and freaking out just went like this *sigh*.
And he was fine. As long as I had him, as long as I kept patting him and telling him, Hey, it's okay, everything's going to be okay. I've got you. Don't worry. If I tell you to go over here, it's because I've already checked it out. It's already safe. And as the competition went on in that day, the first five minutes, the next 10 minutes, the next 10 minutes and everywhere he went and I told him it was okay. And it was he relaxed more. And he went, thank God. It's it's okay. She's got me everywhere. She tells me to go. It's not safe. Not no boogeyman comes out and chases me or hates me. So that's really, and I've always taken it with me with any horse, with any competition, with any new environment I have to lead. I have to reassure. I have to be okay.
And it's not the horse's job to do all of that. It's not the horse's job to give that to me. It's my job to give that to the horse. I'm the old one. I'm the experienced one on the one saying, let's go here, but I know it's safe. So it's really, that's a first bit of mindset that you really want to get into your head is on there to look after my horse. The horse is not there to look after you or to not be nervous. So you're not nervous. There's nothing to be nervous about. There's nothing to, to, you know, the host doesn't know that, you know, we're going to go for a 77 or 55. All of that is irrelevant. This is about a partnership between you and your horse. This is about a trust between you and your horse. And this is about a relationship between you and your horse.
And yes, I want to get 77 and I want to win. And I want to do all that, but that has to come after this. Cause if I get on and my horse is a living, breathing dragon, that won't walk. That is terrified. That is snorting. That is spinning. That is off his Nana. What's the point of thinking about I have to, I have to get more impulsion and I have to get more straightness and I have to perform better. I kind of go into the ring with this. So it has to stop. That's like your foundation.
What do you consider a good basis to enter a competition? I've got to, I've always seen this written in the pony books and I've never known exactly. Is it kind of Connemara. I've got a Connemara horse, but on the other places he explodes and won't work with me at this at home.
We can do a lot, um, but not official. Cause he gets mad and I can't control him. Yeah, it's about doing it in stages. So if you horse is calm at home - locked and loaded. If your horse isn't calm at home, let's figure that out. When he's calm at home, take him to a friend's house, no pressure. You can still control the environment. If it's your friend's house, you can ask that there's not another horse on the arena or that you move that scary, witches hat or whatever it is. You can control the external environment a little bit more. If you go to someone's house that you can control, you keep doing that until you're relaxed there. Then you might go to a protocol day or a judging day or to a judge's house and not control what the arena looks like and what, what happens and keep doing that until you've got relaxation, then you can go to a competition, but not compete.
Just ride them in the warm up and see how they go. And then lastly, you can go to the competition. So everything in writing and training is steps. We can't go from three year old to grand Prix in a ride, it has to be, you know, um, Oh, like when I'm training I shoulder in, it's like, okay, I've got a horse that's three or four that doesn't do shoulder in. So I'm going to ask for his shoulder to move by one mm. You won't see it. I won't see it - will barely feel it. It's just the idea of it. But the idea of it builds to two mm, builds to three mm, builds to four mm, builds to five mm, which is now half a centimeter and maybe you will start to notice something. And suddenly when you come and see the horse in six months, you're like, Oh, it does shoulder in. Yeah. But it's been doing should in - a version of, for the last 90, 180 days. You just haven't been able to see it. If that makes sense.
Here in the U S I've noticed a lot of petty, main girl type attitude towards other riders. So many nasty comments happened during a show. I'm really strong at brushing things off, but I'm not gonna lie. My mind plays those words over and over again. Have you experienced any of these? I'm sure, but I wouldn't know. I'm sure lots of people say lots of nasty things about lots of people and I'm sure guaranteed I'd have to be one of them guaranteed. I guarantee you so many people have said so many nasty things.
I just try and create a bubble where I wouldn't know. So I like to think everyone likes everyone. Like I'm not naive, but in fantasy world and unicorn world where Tash likes to live and likes to hang out, everyone's nice to everyone. Everyone wants everyone to succeed. Everyone is helping each other up. Everyone is championing everyone. And so even if I heard that someone said something horrifically nasty about me, I would go in unicorn land. Aw, I must've misheard. I'm sure no one would say that about another human being, especially someone that's in the sport, but knows how hard it is. Knows how challenging it is and knows how much it takes to go in there. Now I get it. Okay. We're in dressage, everyone has an opinion, everyone. Um, yeah, I get all that. But if we listen to them that you're, you're allowing someone to have power to steal your joy.
And how is that ever in any realm in any way? Okay. It's not okay for someone to steal your joy. Like I said, I ride for competing. Competing is my joy. If I listened to everyone and, and the judges as well, I probably should take a screenshot of all the tests that say, please don't come back. You don't belong in this ring. Please don't enter another competition. You, you shouldn't be here. Um, the amount of negativity that has come from coaches, judges, humans, now that I've gone online people online, I can't control another human being. I can't. Um, I can't. So I can't try. So to answer your question, if you are enjoying your riding, and if you want to go to a show to test where you're at, to show where you're at to, to, to do your thing. And there's people going to have an opinion about like, and then so, so that's what you want to do, but you're not doing it because of other people.
We need to get you in a, in a space where those people don't exist. Sure. They exist, but they exist in their world. And you have to remember if someone is judging someone else, this is like proven. If someone is judging someone else it's about them, they can't possibly be triggered by you unless it's about them. Think about it. We go in our lives, we're just trotting along. And we might see someone wear a green jumper for some people on the planet. They don't even notice someone's wearing a green jumper for other people on the planet. They're like, Oh, that person looks weird. They really shouldn't wear green. That's about them. If your brain in that, there's a hook in the back of your brain called your reticular activating system, where you're getting 2 million bits of information flying at us in any single time. If you notice a green jumper, that's because a green jumper is important to you.
And the green jumper is important to you for a myriad of different things. And the person that gets offended about the green jumper or the person that gets hurt by the green jumper or the person that judges and has a nasty comment about the person with the green jumper, it's all about them. Wishing or wanting, or having an emotional reaction to a green jumper. It's not about you wearing the green jumper, because if you're wearing the green jumper, because you love green and it's your favorite jumper, or your grandma gave it to you, and you love your grandma and your rocking on doing you with a green jumper, you bloody keep doing it. Have I made any sense with an analogy of a green jumper? Or are you like, Oh, I thought we were here to learn horses. Why is she talking about clothing?
I don't care about anyone else. So what they think, but hard to get over the, what if this happens, who cares? What if what in 150 years, I'm not going to say a hundred years. That's got 150 years and 150 years from now. You don't exist unless some technology comes along. Even if they do write a book about whatever happened in this what if scenario, not many people read books, the chances of anyone knowing what if you did. Like, even if it was the worst mistake that ever happened, no one will know about it. And then you go, okay, well, no one knows about it, but I'll know about it. You tell me what has been a mistake in your life up to this point. And you don't have one. Normally when I ask this question, people go, my first husband or my first wife, but it's not a mistake because it's not possible on this planet to have only bad things. So yes, maybe you married the wrong person, or maybe you bought the wrong horse, or maybe you went to the competition that maybe you shouldn't have at that point. And that's something that was a mistake or a, what if failure? Or what if disaster, but it's not - because you learned something you grew from it, you changed from it. You developed because of it.
So do I look back on my life and, and would I have lived it differently knowing what I do now then? Yeah. Cause I'm very smart now. And actually I love that I'm very smart because I look at who I was at 18 and I laugh my head off because I'm very smart now. But 58 year old Tash is looking at me going, honey. You got nothing, you know, nothing. So be excited that you're on this journey of growth, be excited that you're on this journey of discovery. Be excited that you're on this journey of ever ending knowledge and enjoy the heck out of it. Don't let the, what if I fail? What if I make a mistake? What if I get it wrong? What if everyone laughs? What if it's a disaster? What if it goes wrong? Good. Everything in my life that has gone wrong, been a disaster shouldn't have happened, really stuffed it up, gave me something. There is no such thing. Listen to me guys. There was no such thing as there as a good or a bad thing at the end, a hundred percent good or a hundred percent bad. I adore my husband. I would marry him a million years over. I love him to death, but is our marriage and he's he all good? No, you should've seen us last night.
So, but it is our marriage. Therefore, because we had a big thing last night, which was pretty much all me. It was all him, listen, it's on the record. It was all him. It had nothing to do with me. Are you listening Phil? He like umm-hmm but does does that mean because we had a fight then our marriage is all bad and our relationship is all bad and he's a bad person. It's not, it's not, it's not good or bad. And the quicker you can understand that there are no right or wrong decisions. There's no good or bad people. There's no good or bad things. There's no right or wrong time to compete to do something. Whatever it is, the quicker you can get to joy, the quicker you can get to just rocking the quicker you can get to just experiencing learning, growing, and, and going with that.
Okay. I may have gone a little bit off topic of competition.
How to grieve a horse. Rosie. I couldn't possibly answer that for you, Rosie. If you asked me, how do I grieve for a horse? I could tell you, but that's not even going to be useful because how I do something isn't going to help you. So how do you want to grieve your horse and how do you want to get to a place? So for me, when I'm grieving, I want to get to a place where I can think of the thing that I've lost or the thing that has happened with acceptance, with joy, with remembering the good times. So if I've, you know, I've lost my father, I've lost horses, I've lost cats. It needs to get to a point like, um, where I remember, like I can look back and instead of crying my eyes out.
So let me take my dad. For example, if I look back at my, my memories with my father and my experiences with my father, there's, there's only joy and like, laughter, it's like, Oh, do you remember that time? He did this. And there's an occasional, I would say, I miss my father, when something happens that I would normally talk to him about, this happened a couple of weeks ago. And I said to Phil, Oh, I miss dad so much. Cause at that point I just would have loved to go, Oh my God, I'm what do you think? And he would have given his whole blah, blah, blah. And I would have gone, why am I talking to you about this ignore? Um, but that's just missing something that you don't get to do anymore. But I accept that I don't get to do that anymore. And I'm glad we... it's not that I'm glad we don't get to do that. But I look at the relationship with between me and my father. And as he would say, that's how it should have been. He's my father. He should be buried first. You know, I, I can find a reconciliation. He was very old. He was a very old father. Um, he was an amazing father and sure would I like him to be hanging out? Absolutely. But it's okay because that's how it goes. So I understand, like if you're talking about grieving a horse and they've been a freak accident, but I've lost horses in a freak accident, that's, that's what can happen. It's a freak accident. So Dante, we walked into the stable, he had had a massive cardiac episode and was dead in the stable. And I remember just going, wow, cause there was so much emotions.
There's the pain of is the horse ok? Was there any pain. And you know, the vet reassured it would have gone super, super quick, really not in pain. Then there's the mourning of all the things that we were going to create together. Um, we were going to go Prix St George, we were going to go Grand Prix - so the loss of the things that we were going to have. And then it's the looking back on what we did have and smiling and going. I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to do that. I'm so glad we had that memory of that. I don't know if I've helped, but I hope so. And we are so not into competition.
I am planning to get back out competing, but my new horse doesn't like arena work. So not sure how I'm going to have lessons with her and compete.
I currently work her out in the Bush. Um, have you got any ideas of how to get her to, accept to working in an arena? Uh, well, anything you do in an arena you can do in the bush, so you can do shoulder in, travers, renvers, leg yield, half pass, tempi changes, pirouettes - everything you can do out there. Um, uh, you need to work out. I would assume if you were out in the bush and you said work, like use your back connect the hind leg to the front, um, lift work hard. Um, yeah. And you worked that I think, um, uh, she would probably not be happy in the bush either. I don't believe it's the context of where you are. I believe it's it's it's the work. So again, um, if you put me in the gym and the personal trainer says a hundred burpees, I don't care if I'm doing a hundred burpees in a sunrise in Bali, on a cliff top in a mountain resort with the alps in the distance, um, in, uh, on a beach with a beautiful Palm tree.
I don't care where we're doing the a hundred burpees, the a hundred burpees are hard and I'm not happy. Does that make sense? I don't think it's about the location that you're doing. The work. I think it's about the work I've been doing the online comps due to COVID it's been super because you don't have the added pressure of another environment that is true. And it's helped me learn to understand us both as a team. So I can't wait to get out soon when comps are up and running, but certainly helps a lot being in your own environment, focusing on your own methods to love it. Awesome, Tasha. And that's where like you get to a point where the new environment, you enjoy more because I love that extra challenge of my horse, my horse doesn't want to pay attention to me. He wants to look around my horse is fired up.
I've got all this extra energy that I don't only have at home. And I can manage that. Um, I like that I love a crowded warmup arena and I go bring it. I'm going to have to be more on my game and be more aware of where every horse is. So I'm at home and I don't have to think about where other horses are. Now. I'm going to think of that with 15 other horses are. And if I want to do a circle because the horse needs a circle, but I can't do a circle. What am I going to do about that? And how am I going to adapt to that? And how am I going to manipulate like that? So I love that Tasha. Yep. You, you work on and that's what I'm saying about doing it in steps. Do it this way. Then expand the comfort zone.
Then expand the comfort zone and then this massive sphere is all within your comfort zone because you've built your way up to it.
How do you do a perfect 20 meter circle? So firstly, you need to know your maths a 20 meter circle. Let's say at B or E is two meters before like P and S. You need to know. Yeah. So you need to get out your arena. The arena letters are marked. Um, Oh, you're gonna test me here, but I'm pretty sure it's six meters then 18 meters, 18 meters, 18 meters six. Did I miss an 18 meters 18? Let me get out my calculator. 18 times three equals 54.
That doesn't work Kate. Cause now we've got six left. Okay. Clearly Tash does not know. It must be 12, 12 plus 12 plus 12 plus 12 plus six plus six. Got it. 60. Okay. I'm a grand Prix dressage rider apparently. But yes, you've got six meters. Then 12 meters, 12 meters, 12 meters, six meters. So 12 plus 12 is 24 and it's a 20 meter circle. So that means you got to go two meters in from this side and two meters in from that side. If that makes sense. So you've got to draw out your little arena, draw out your maths. And that's the biggest thing I think people make when they're learning to do a 20 meter circle. They just assume the 12 meters, either side of B & E is, um, 20 meters and it's actually 24 meters, 12 times two. So, um, yeah, you've got to cut that circle in by two meters, each side.
And then you've just got to make sure every step is a turning step. There are no straight strides in a circle. There are no straight lines in a circle. Every single step is a turn. So you've got to figure out 12.
How should I deal with a strong horse I haven't ridden before. I've competed for my university equestrian team. And each comp have ended up with a really strong horse, which I don't know. And I'm stressed out. I feel like I lose myself. How do I deal with a strong horse and how to dissociate my anxiety surrounding it? Firstly, realize you're doing a dressage test. You're not like trying to solve like cure cancer. You're not trying to get to Mars. You're not doing anything that no one has never done before or something that's really going to change humanity at a global level. So let's just take the seriousness out of it.
Shall we? That's how I deal with it. I go, nothing. I do. Even if I win an Olympic gold, like compete at the Olympics, it still doesn't change the world at a global level. It still doesn't that if I epically failed at the Olympics, does that matter? Like tell me what the wrong, what could go wrong? If I came last at the Olympics, I was there. I don't see a downside. If I went into the ring and totally mucked it up. Now of course, would I be devastated puddle on the floor? You would get a YouTube video of Epic proportions of snot and tears and Epic sadness for a second. I'd be disappointed. I'd clearly want to have done my best performance, not my worst. And I clearly would have wanted to rise to the occasion and I clearly would have wanted a little bitty gold medal, but would the world have changed?
What I've hurt anyone? Would I have? Um, like, like, yeah, what I've heard, anyone would, anything bad have happened? Would I have lost our house? Would I, would my kids die? Would my kids hate me? Nothing bad can happen. So you're a test and it goes horrifically wrong. You just got some personal disappointment, which you can get over because you've got some learnings and you'll never do that again. And you'll be bang on ready for the next Olympics or the next test or whatever it is. That's the first thing. The second thing is, um, the strong horse, a horse, can't be strong by itself. So everyone and I get it. Horses can be strong, but they're strong. Cause I go, they're strong. And so I pull back as well. You need to have like a sharp half halt. So if I push you and you push against me, do you see we're in a pushing?
You know? So if I, if this'll work, put your hands together and start pushing one with the left. What instinctively happens is then the right hand starts pushing. So now I'm pushing both really, really hard. Now, if I just have a horse, that's pushing, it just pushes it away. So if I've got a horse that pushes me, I'll just push it back and it pushes me. I'll just push it back, pushes me, push it back. I won't get into an argument of both of us just pushing, cause they'll win. There are a lot stronger. Does that make sense at all? I hope.
Do you think people should feel intimidated about not having a fancy horse and I have a little cob? Absolutely not. No. No. What does anyone, what anyone else have, um, what does that got to do with your journey and with your, you know, with, with what your doing, you've got to, again, rock on dressage cob.
I love it. You've got a rock on doing your thing. So if you're there with your cob, you believe in your cob, you're having fun with your cob, you rock on and he can appreciate the fancy horse. I saw the nicest fanciest horse yesterday. I was like, yeah, it's black, it's big, it's fancy. It's beautiful. Um, and I would probably spend the warmup going, Oh, that's so cool. But it's "so cool". It's not "that's so cool... therefore I don't deserve to be here". That's so cool. I think that horse would be... The first thing I said thought then was I think that horse would be really hard to ride. And then, um, I can't wait to learn what I need to learn on the horses that I have to have the skills to be able to ride something like that.