I had my first “panic attack” about the finals yesterday–this is how it starts. I’m not a terribly nervous competitor. Any butterflies I have are waved away in the warm up, if they show up at all. I don’t mean that I’m laissez-faire about showing–I’m all business–but it has been a long time since I’ve had show nerves bad enough to feel debilitating. Occasionally I’ve planned poorly with my warm up time, or Bravo’s come out like a bucking bronc, or I’ve had a tack or number malfunction that gets me a bit addled, but again that’s usually gone by the time I hit the centerline.
Except for finals classes. I stress. I fret. I over think. I analyze. I over-analyze. I plan. I change my plan. I go back to my original plan. I inwardly scream at myself for obsessing about a plan. In a word, I choke.
For instance, I had a small panic attack yesterday when I looked at my watch while driving. It went something like this: “Oh, my watch is so sparkly in the sunshine. I will wear this watch at the Williamston show. Hmm…maybe I should pick up this watch in white before the show to better blend with my white gloves. OH GOD WILLIAMSTON IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER AND IT’S THE FINALS!” My heart rate went from a pleasant, and relatively normal 60ish bpm to RACING. It was over in a flash, but I had the sweaty palms, the urge to flee, the deer in the headlights eyes–you get the picture.
I psyche myself out for these big classes, and I don’t know why. I’ll convince myself that I have no business being in the class with all those other nice horses (despite having a pretty successful season), and then I’ll swing the other way and feel confident that Bravo and I are ready, willing, and able to win. And then the analyzing and over-analyzing cycle begins again. I’ve read many books and articles on performance anxiety, and I think this is why I have conquered my show nerves for 99% of my classes. So why can’t I just get on and ride my best test 4 weeks from now and not concern myself with the fact that it’s “The Finals”?
Because it’s The Finals. OH CRAP!