The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 117: Why Competing Can Feel So Vulnerable


Your knees are knocking, you’re getting lightheaded and you’re not sure why you signed up for this event. You’re feeling very vulnerable. Your heart is racing, your legs are stiff, you can’t take deep breaths…it’s not a great feeling, but it’s a very common feeling. In this episode, I’ll share why it feels so vulnerable when we are competing with our horses. 

Why does it feel like we are naked out there when we’re competing? Why does it feel like all eyes are on us, waiting for us to mess up?

You might feel…
all the nerves
shaky legs
wobbly knees

Competition can bring out all your feelings and all of your insecurities.

Why do we feel so vulnerable when competing?  Because it is a vulnerable experience. You are putting yourself out there. You are risking judgement, injury, dissatisfaction, rejection, unmet expectations. 

You have to give yourself a break when the feelings of nervousness and frustration come up. You really are putting yourself out there. There’s a reason you feel nervous.

Your nervous system is there to protect you from danger. As far as our nervous systems are concerned, vulnerability can feel very dangerous. It goes against our wiring.  It leaves us exposed. The problem arises when your nervous system misinterprets the amount of danger you’re putting yourself in. You chose this “danger” and you’re willing to take some risks, so the nervous system response should be manageable. 

According to VeryWellMind, vulnerability is defined as “a state of emotional exposure that comes with a certain degree of uncertainty. It involves a person’s willingness to accept the emotional risk that comes from being open and willing to love and be loved. The fear of vulnerability is a very common fear.” 

Vulnerability doesn’t feel that great, but it’s something that we need to be able to accept.

We need to be able to deal with our nervous system’s response to vulnerability. Our brains like certainty and they like to know an outcome. If we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, that’s a red flag to our nervous system. 

If we have some certainty, we often feel less nervous.  For example, if you’re riding a consistent horse that you’ve had lots of great runs with, you won’t likely feel as nervous. 

We are programmed to stay safe. Being vulnerable goes against how we are wired to protect ourselves. Luckily, we have the ability to override that programming. You can control some of this with your mind.

You can change your perception of disappointment, rejection, judgement and dissatisfaction. Your perception of a situation will affect how your nervous system responds. If you can change your perception, you can manage how vulnerable you feel.

Through Stride, we look at your beliefs and fears and find out what can be cleared so you truly believe you are worthy and deserving. We are in the midst of our Mental Toughness Challenge. I never want to give the impression that we should become less vulnerable to “toughen up”. In fact, I believe we need to become more comfortable being vulnerable, and that’s what gives us the advantage and builds the resilience needed to go through tough experiences.

When you’re competing with horses and laying it all out on the line, you are doing something that exposes you.  No wonder you’re nervous. 

When you can’t regulate your nervous system, it can impact your runs and cause problems. This is when you need to build your arsenal of tools and methods that will help you deal with nervousness before it hits.

If you’re looking for a program that will teach you some tools and resources to manage your nervous system and increase your resilience in 6 weeks or less, keep your eye out for the return of Mental Toughness Bootcamp. Due to popular demand, I’m rewriting this course and bringing it back!  Bootcamp will be open to all competitive riders and those that want to increase their mental toughness through the vulnerable feelings that come up when competing with horses. 

Join the Conversation

Join the discussion in the The Rider’s Mind Community on Facebook. As a member of this community, you’ll also get tips and videos from me. 

Want to connect or ask me a question? Find me on Instagram or Facebook.

Learn with Me

Interested in Boot Camp?   Let me know HERE

If you’re looking to make changes to your mindset, be sure to sign up for my free Next-Level Mindset Mini Course.

You can also join Stride, my next-level barrel racing group. This group receives video training and coaching from me and Stride members have access to special guests. We work on becoming mindful barrel racers so we can show up, be present and perform with great partnership.

Sources Consulted


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