Facing my Inner Child in the Show Ring

Photo by Lauren Mauldin


We have all been there. We’re getting ready to go into the ring, checking to make sure our jacket is buttoned and number on our back. We might be breathing, or not. We know we are up next, and as we finish watching the other competitors we go through our plan for the course. We are ready.

We have trained for this in every lesson. Heels down, sit up straight, and smile. Sometimes those smiles are wiped from our faces when the unexpected goes wrong. We might or might not panic. The horse goes faster, and we try to maintain calm as we zoom through the corner. When the unexpected happens the nerves get to me.

I am what you could say an emotional person who feels things deeply. After my unexpected round, I remember coming out of the ring and bursting into tears. It’s not an unusual site at the horse show, but I was a then 35-year-old adult… and was mortified. I couldn’t believe I was a grown adult, crying at the in-gate. 

My instructor made me go back in, and I ended up placing second in the medal. I can’t explain how this happens. When you are humiliated and embarrassed, going back in is the last thing you want to do. It made me realize just how important it is to have the right people around you when the unexpected happens.

I blew out some air, wiped the tears from my face, and walked back into that ring. Every day we have choices. Passion and my love for what I do trumps any momentary setbacks. I am grateful for the chance to do what I love to do and to be surrounded by those who care.

Photo courtesy of Susan Gilstrap

7 Things to remember when facing your inner child:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people. Seems obvious enough, but when these times come, and they will, you need all of the help that you can get. These are times that you are most vulnerable.
  2. Know you’re not alone. Doesn’t matter what age you are or what your riding background is. Sometimes we just need to know that these things happen. It may seem like this only happens to you in those moments. Be gentle with yourself.
  3. Believe in yourself. Remember that confidence is gained by walking through what we might want to avoid.
  4. Don’t ever blame the horse.
  5. Do the opposite of what you think you should.
  6. Laugh at yourself.
  7. Attitude! Attitude! Attitude! Tell your trainer you want to attack what happened in the show ring in your next lesson. Tell them you want to work on facing your fears, keeping your heels down, work on transitions, whatever it takes to be better prepared for next time. 

Susan works in advertising as a creative art director in Dallas, TX. She spends time with her husband and her 2 dogs Winnie and Gozer. She rides during the weekends when she can and looks forward to showing in 2019 as an Adult Ammy.