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First Impressions Do Count

I enjoyed Martina Bone’s blog titled 10 Things to Improve Your Score.  If you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is the link: http://posemucklfarm.com/blog1/2015/06/29/10-things-to-improve-your-score/

Her number one point, “first impressions do count”, struck a chord with me.  As a former hiring professional, corporate trainer and HR Manager, and now as a clinician and coach, I know how critical first impressions are. 

Making a good first impression is incredibly important because you only get one shot at it. I know this sounds harsh, but as humans we are conditioned to judge people within the first second of meeting them—and our opinion often doesn’t change. This is called thin slicing.

Thin slicing is when we take a mental snapshot of someone and guess his or her competence, confidence and likeability in less than a second. Researchers think this is a survival mechanism that we have developed to decide very quickly if someone is friend or foe.  In the first 10 seconds after meeting someone we develop over 100 perceptions of him or her, some subconsciously.  Think of all the determinations that go through your mind as you are introduced to someone new; male or female, height, weight, perceived attractiveness, level of confidence or nervousness, ethnicity, length of hair, personal style, firmness of handshake, ability to make eye contact, enthusiasm, professionalism, friendliness, education, economic status, marriage status… and the list goes on and on. 

The importance of first impressions carries over into our presentation on the Cowboy Dressage court.  Judges are human and are drawn to an appealing picture.  At the distance you and your horse are from the judge’s stand, the bigger pieces of the picture, such as the overall blending or contrasting of the colors of your clothes and horse, become more important than the smaller details, such as the stamping on your chinks.  You want to achieve a picture of partnership and the colors and style you choose can either add to, or detract from, your look of harmony with your horse.  When considering how to spend my wardrobe budget, I allot a larger amount to the purchase of my hat and chinks or chaps.  These items cover a good portion of what the judge sees, and they will last a long time if they are of good quality and well cared for.  Buy a neutral color and they can be used on several colors of horse.  I spend less money on tops as I can often find what I want on clearance.  It is easy to find tops in a wide variety of colors and styles to add diversity to my look.  And of course, a new scarf or a vest can add a touch of drama or a more classic look as needed. 

The most important part of your first impression is your horse.  In Cowboy Dressage we honor our partner, the horse.  A properly fed, conditioned, groomed and cared for horse is paramount.  The horse is the biggest part of your picture of harmony and he must be your first consideration.  Preparing for a test at a Gathering begins months in advance and includes training and practice as well as proper feeding, veterinary care, hoof care, and grooming.  I also have a chiropractor on my team and she has been a very valuable addition.  Tack must be appropriate, properly fitted and clean.  Honor the horse with your on-going care and he will reward you ten-fold.  It’s just the right thing to do.

If you’d like to know more about how to put together your picture of partnership and harmony for a rock star first impression, please contact us.  We offer Performance Coaching clinics and workshops, and can also add an evaluation of you and your horse to any lesson to provide tips and ideas.  In addition, our x2x3 clinics and workshops delve deep into the bottom of your test to help improve your score.  We look forward to helping you shine!    

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