So yesterday was our last yearling parade! It’s a huge sigh of relief for me and my anxiety. It’s been a great learning experience for me and it’s helped me push my boundaries but phewwww, I can breathe a lot better now!
We have roughly 40 (give or take a few) yearlings in for the Magic Millions prep and part of the prep work involves parades. Parades involves clients/trainers/potential buyers coming down to the yearling barn to watch each individual yearling get walked around the parade ring.
Our first parade was for Gai Waterhouse. She’s pretty famous in the racing industry. Especially here in Australia. I didn’t get to lead any yearlings for this parade which I was quite happy about. The thought of doing a parade with not much parading experience in front of Gai Waterhouse was enough to set my anxiety off. The first parade went well though! All yearlings behaved and we got some lovely feedback from Gai herself which definitely made me feel better about the parades to come.
My first few parades went fine. In fact all my parades went fine. The fillies I lead all behaved and they were fillies I got along with but after my first couple parades my anxiety began to make them challenging. My heart rate would rise, I’d begin to sweat, my hands and legs would shake, I’d chew on my bottom lip and my mind would become fuzzy. It soon changed into a experience I didn’t enjoy. There were a couple of times where I almost burst into tears due to fear or feeling like I fucked it up. I never really cried in front of anyone. Crying is something I prefer to do by myself. So I spent a few evenings in my bedroom after work crying about a parade. Pretty sad…trust me I know!
As yearling prep continued the amount of parades we did increased. Not that long ago we had 4 parades in one day which involved a very large group of people coming to watch in the morning. Now that was a terrifying experience. After that we had a unexpected parade and a parade where the clients arrived early. That one really set my anxiety off. I wasn’t prepared for it. It took me by surprise and it was all a bit too much. We all rushed to get the horses ready and it was pretty hot at this point as well. The heat along with my rising body temperature had me dripping in sweat which then resulted in increased anxiety/paranoia because of how much I was sweating. Not a good day.
The parades took a toll on me some days. The stress sometimes didn’t leave me till before I fell asleep the following evening but I made it through them all. We’ve easily done over 20 parades throughout the prep. That’s 20+ times my anxiety could have caused me to have a panic attack but I managed to stay in control. Luckily I work with a great team and my manager is amazing. Even though they might not all know about my struggles, they really did help. We always managed to have a laugh or make a joke out of a busy/challenging time at work. The team helped me get through many anxious times at work and I’m extremely thankful for them.
The parades have taught me a lot about myself, my skills/abilities and the horse industry. I’d like to think my horse handling skills have improved as well as my knowledge. I’ve gained even more respect for the horse racing community and the hard workers in it. It taught me about my limits. There were times when my anxiety tried to convince me I couldn’t go out into that parade ring but I had to. It was my job. I didn’t want to let the team down so I went out there and I did it. Sure I was only out there for a couple of minutes max but I still managed to walk out there numerous times. I’ve been battling with my anxiety a lot recently. It’s made work more difficult on some days but its helped me realise my strength. I’ve still got a lonnnnnggg way to go before I am anxiety free but it’s getting easier to challenge my anxiety rather than letting it take over all the time.
Anxiety is something that won’t go away over night. It could take months or even years to conquer it. As shit and negative as anxiety is, it can teach you a hell of a lot about yourself.
Sometimes it’s helpful to listen to it.
Sending lots of love to you all,