A strong spirit can carry you through, even at times when you’re not really “feeling it.”

Spirit, drive, belief, confidence…these are all things you cannot do without if you want to be effective in life and as a competitor. I call it having good energy, but whatever you want to call it, it means keeping the right attitude even when things aren’t going your way, when you’re tired or when it’s just plain hard. You need a strong spirit to follow through on things like riding regularly, maintaining healthy habits, keeping a healthy diet, paying attention to your goals and not getting sidetracked by day-to-day worries. You need to have good energy to be disciplined to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people. For the times when that’s not possible, you need to have the fortitude not to let the people around you drag you down. For me, it means working yourself out mentally—just as you would physically when you know you need more core strength or more upper body strength—to commit yourself to knowing the areas in which you can improve and take steps to make that happen.

Replace Negatives with Positives

Thoughts can take on a life of their own, so it’s important to develop discipline about the way you think about others and yourself. For example, a little bit of envy, jealousy or anger can spiral quickly into a lot of negativity. Recognize those feelings and take steps to keep them from overtaking your mind. You have to replace the negative with the positive. This takes a conscious effort for many of us. It takes a little while for your brain and your heart to get it, but if you make an effort to replace anger with happiness, I guarantee it comes back around. We are all capable of learning to handle ourselves better and be good influences on those around us. There’s a trickle-down effect to that habit, too.

My underlying desire to teach stems from helping people improve and getting them energized about their goals and dreams. You don’t have to go through life struggling and suffering. People are all dealt a unique hand, but with whatever situation you’ve been placed in, do the best you can. No two stories are the same.

Horses are companion animals, and they help heal people. There are miraculous stories about how horses help people with conditions like autism or muscular dystrophy. Horses are amazing healers and do so much, so we should all learn all we can about how to take really good care of them and make sure they like their jobs. When you have the willingness to learn more and get along better with your horses, it keeps you energized. When you have good intentions, good comes back to you.

Fight Your Fears

Fear is one of the biggest obstacles people deal with. Fear of hitting barrels, not having good balance in the saddle or making a mistake and looking funny in front of others—these things can all be overcome. Recognize what is holding you back and take responsibility to improve and conquer those fears. Make a plan, believe in yourself that you can, and seek out help if you need to.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of you. I think we all know in our hearts what’s right and what’s wrong. People may not always agree with you, but you’ve got to have confidence that you’re fine despite what others think. Focus on happiness and being grateful for the opportunities you have—you can’t carry around a bunch of negative thoughts and expect positive outcomes. Personally, I go back to how Jesus was here to love people, and I believe we are supposed to support and build each other up in love.

Our thoughts and words are key to health and happiness. I encourage people to study the effects the words we speak and hear have on health. Even sounds have an impact, which is something I’ve researched a lot lately.

I know our attitudes can affect our horses. Horses are very intuitive creatures. Scamper was probably the truest embodiment of that—he absolutely loved kids; it’s like he knew people’s intentions. Follow your own intuition, study these things for yourself and find out what’s true for you.

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BHN.