Developing a strong mental game will help you stay positive during slumps and stay sharp under pressure for big moments in the arena. Photo by Delanie Davis

By Regan Davis

I am not going to attempt to cover up the fact that I struggle. Because I struggle badly. This said, mental game is exactly that—a serious competition between myself…and myself. But, I am in the process of using it to strengthen my competitive edge rather than defeat it. The concept of keeping our equine athletes in physically exceptional shape is not only important, but nearly a necessity to excel in the performance arena. What is not addressed enough but is equally critical is the mental health of these athletes and our own mental game. 

If I could go back 10 years from now and tell my younger self one thing, maybe it would be different and this mental game would be irrelevant. Or maybe it wouldn’t. 

Dear Younger Self,

Congratulations! You just made that first step—the most important step—toward that huge dream of yours to be a barrel racer. Now, that is awesome. In fact, that is something to celebrate. I have to warn you though, there will be times when it is tough, real tough. It is okay to cry and be frustrated. It is okay, as long as you hold your head high, continue to work hard and stay humble. The journey ahead of you is tough and humbling, but that is okay. Trust that it is okay and will be okay. Trust the process of this journey. The finish line will be so special.

Dream BIG. “You must have dreams and goals if you are ever going to achieve anything in this world.” –Lou Holtz

Set goals, dream big and hold onto them. It can be difficult. That is part of the journey you are in the midst of climbing. When you fall, get back up and try again. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” –Thomas Edison

And keep in mind, smooth is fast. 

Success is not about necessarily winning the race. No, success is so much more. The bigger and more difficult the mountain, the more rewarding the view will be. Success is making those steps closer toward the ultimate goal. These steps aren’t necessarily leaps and bounds; but simply taking small increments reaching closer to your goal. Enter the arena with an ambitious and competitive mindset, but consider the steps that are crucial in order to reach the ultimate goals. 

Be teachable. Remember that there is always something that can be learned. Never stop learning. That is how to continue to improve. Absorb and be appreciative for the sharing of wisdom, but be particular on what to apply. Everyone is their own story book, but you are also writing your own. Everything can be looked at in a different perspective depending on the lens that is being looked though. You can always learn something new and grow as a competitor—equestrian and individual. 

Don’t forget to always love your horse and take top-notch care of them. They are athletes too and deserve to be treated as such. Spend the extra money to keep them happy, healthy and feeling good. Spend the extra time learning about them. Help them become mentally and physically tough. Walk out of the arena and thank your horse, every time. Every single time. Your horse only has so many runs. Make them count, but appreciate all of them. You never know when that could be the last time.

Celebrate! Always celebrate, even the smallest of successes. “Acknowledge the small successes.” –Katie Hollingsworth

Remember to keep it fun. Have fun, embrace each run and be thankful. Being mentally tough is equally as important as being physically tough; if not even more. Spend time polishing both, for you and your horse. It is an ongoing process. 

You are enough. You always have been and still are. Be calm and have confidence, but be kind. Be focused, but humble. Don’t ever forget those who are standing alongside and helping you every step of the way. They are important. 

And most importantly, take a minute and breathe. It is a journey. Love it, enjoy it and enjoy the climb. The best is yet to come. 

With Excitement of a Bright Future, 

Regan

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Regan Davis is a California native, college rodeo competitor and longtime contributor to the Barrel Horse News Youth Forum. She founded the annual charity barrel race Just Breathe And Run in support of her sister, Danika Davis, who is affected with cystic fibrosis.

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