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Posts Tagged ‘equestrian sport psychology’

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Don’t we all like to feel like we’re in control of our actions and reactions? Especially when it comes to working with and riding horses—it is in our best interests (in terms of living to see another day, that is) to maintain some semblance of calm, cool, rational control in stance and movement, and to generally avoid screaming, flailing, lurching, vomiting, fainting, or in other ways baffling or scaring the 1200-pound creature beside or beneath us.

The thing is, any number of years can go by, any number of instructors can point us in the a positive direction, and any number of experiences can go right…but we’ll still be thrown out of whack psychologically at the very thought of them potentially going wrong. And it is this that inspires the sudden and ill-advised lack of control that can end with us bottoms up in a puddle.

“The amygdala, which sits very near the brain stem, is the part of the brain responsible for these basic emotions: happy, sad, mad, and scared,” explains formerly practicing psychotherapist and certified riding instructor Andrea Waldo in her new book BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. “The area that includes the brain stem and the amygdala is often referred to as the ‘Lizard Brain’ or the ‘Reptile Brain,’ because reptiles seem to have been the first animals to possess this area.

“Much, much later, we evolved our prefrontal cortex,” she goes on, “a very large section located just behind the forehead. This is your ‘Rational Brain,’ the part of the brain that controls logical thought: it allows you to plan
that after you read this chapter, you need to pick up your son from soccer, buy grain, and remind your spouse that tomorrow is recycling day. It also allows you to do cool things like think in the abstract and come up with great inventions like saddles and Velcro and duct tape. We tend to rely on the prefrontal cortex to get us through the day.”

But guess what? Despite all that evolving that has occurred, the Lizard Brain likes to take the reins in our brains, determining how we act and react—and the reptile is neither reasoned nor logical.

“As much as we know that an apple is better than a cookie and that paying the electric bill is more important than the tack shop’s clearance sale, our Lizard Brain couldn’t care less about ‘long term health’ or ‘financial stability,’” says Waldo. “It thinks only about the immediate moment, and it cares about only one thing in this moment: survival. This is why you can’t think straight when you’re extremely nervous: your amygdala has hijacked your Rational Brain. You’re not stupid or inept; you’ve just allowed your Lizard Brain to run the show. It thinks you’re being attacked by a tiger, so it tries to get you to safety.

“The Lizard Brain can’t distinguish between a psychological threat and a physical one; it uses the same response for both. This is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you knew five minutes ago…. To the Lizard Brain, a threat is a threat, and you either need to kill it or run away from it as fast as possible.”

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

The good news is we don’t have to be brought down by a mental Godzilla! Waldo has lots of ways to tame the Lizard Brain, keeping us the cool, rational, controlled riders who are not only safer in the saddle, but happier and more successful in all our dealings with horses.

Here’s an easy exercise to get you started as you head out for a weekend of riding: List 10 of your riding skills.

Can you do it? Every single one, even the most basic, counts. If you can’t recognize your abilities, you can’t have confidence in them. But when you can look at yourself and identify all the ways you are a knowledgeable and capable horse person, then you can take one step in keeping that Lizard Brain out of the driver’s seat.

For more about our reptilian side and the ways we can learn to unlock our riding potential, check out BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Waldo, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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International trainer and riding instructor Daniel Stewart is widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on equestrian sport psychology, biomechanics, and athletics. He teaches clinics and seminars to thousands of riders each year and is a popular guest speaker at many national and international conventions. Right now Daniel is in the middle of his annual summer clinic tour, featuring the popular “Pressure Proof” Clinics based on his fabulous and fun book PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING.

Daniel’s summer tour has sold-out stops at farms from California to Maine. We are blown away by his seemingly boundless energy and positivity, even while he’s crisscrossing the country and pressure-proofing the masses! He always has a smile and a laugh at the ready, and we don’t know how he does it!

Check out Daniel’s typical day on the road, the fourth installment in TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series.

 

24hrDS

A TYPICAL DAY ON THE PRESSURE PROOF SUMMER TOUR

5:00 a.m.  Wake up by mistake and smile because I still have another hour to sleep!

5:30 a.m.  Still smiling.

6:00 a.m.  Wake up and get ready to work out (the smile’s gone away a bit now…)

6:30 a.m.  Have a light breakfast of yogurt and fruit.

7:00 a.m.  Cardio and weight training (light weights and lots of repetitions so I can keep my girlish figure).

7:30 a.m.  Return to my hotel room—Yay, my workout’s done!

8:00 a.m.  Have a shower so that I can be clean when I get dirty at the barn.

8:30 a.m.  Have a second breakfast full of protein because it’s going to be at least 4 or 5 hours before I see a fork again!

9:00 a.m.  Drive from the hotel to the venue hosting my clinic.

9:30 a.m.  Welcome my clinic riders for the day.

10:00 a.m.  Teach a Pressure Proof Clinic to 4 intermediate horses and riders.

10:30 a.m.  Riders start doing situps because they’re scoring too many faults in my clinic!

11:00 a.m.  Teach a Pressure Proof Clinic to 4 advanced horses and riders.

11:30 a.m.  I oversee more situps because there are more faults!

12:00 p.m.  Teach a Pressure Proof Clinic to 4 novice horses and riders.

12:30 p.m.  Still more situps. The riders are having a hard time standing up now!

 

On tour, Daniel spends many hours a day in the ring, coaching riders.

On tour, Daniel spends many hours a day in the ring, coaching riders.

 

1:00 p.m.  Riding lessons (and situps) are done for the day.  Time to untack and eat a healthy lunch of wraps, fruit, and veggies with my clinic riders.

1:30 p.m.  Prepare and begin to teach my “confidence boosting” seminar to a room full of awesome riders.

2:20 p.m.  Still talking. Take a minute to finally take a breath because I talk so fast. Wrap up my seminar with a Q&A. Most common question: “Coach Stewart, why do you wear white pants when you teach in a dirt arena?”

2:30 p.m.  Sit down (for the first time in 5 hours) for my book signing of my book PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING and rider fitness DVD E3: Extreme Equestrian Exercises.

3:00 p.m.  Say a big goodbye to the riders and thank the clinic organizer for all her hard work.

3:30 p.m.  Begin my drive to the venue where I’ll be teaching another great clinic tomorrow.

4:00 p.m.  Get lost on the way.

4:30 p.m.  Get found on the way.

5:00 p.m.  Get lost again.

5:30 p.m.  Arrive at the hotel. Yeah!

 

One of the most common questions asked in Daniel's seminar Q&A: "Daniel, why do you wear white pants when you teach in dirt arenas?"

One of the most common questions asked in Daniel’s seminar Q&A: “Daniel, why do you wear white pants when you teach in dirt arenas?”

 

6:00 p.m.  Skype with my wife and children—they miss their papa!

6:30 p.m.  Have a healthy dinner: Lots of protein, fruit, and veggies.

7:00 p.m.  Prepare for an hour of returning emails and booking flights and hotels for the next stops on the clinic tour.

7:30 p.m.  Can’t find any flights or hotels that I can afford so I keep looking.

8:00 p.m.  Finally decide to book the expensive flights and hotels because that’s all there is!

8:30 p.m.   Shut the computer off and turn on the TV.  Get ready Weather Channel, here I come!

9:00 p.m.  Watch my favorite show, MTV’s Ridiculousness (people do the dumbest things!!)

9:30 p.m.  Try watching my show but can’t seem to keep my eye’s open… must… not… fall… asleep…

10:00 p.m.  Fall asleep reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to repeat this wonderful day 49 more times in the next 58 days!!!

10:30 p.m.  Nobody home.  Smile still on my face though…

 

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING by Daniel Stewart is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE EXCERPT

“Daniel’s enthusiasm is infectious, and his attitude toward emotional challenges makes having nerves and insecurities seem so normal—and so manageable.” —Leslie Threlkeld, Editor, Eventing USA

 

Read the other installments in TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

Doug Payne

Janet Foy

Clinton Anderson

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TSB author Daniel Stewart just wrapped up his sold-out 2013 Summer Clinic Tour.

TSB author Daniel Stewart just wrapped up his sold-out 2013 Summer Clinic Tour.

TSB author and equestrian sport psychology expert Daniel Stewart just wrapped up his sold-out 2013 Summer Clinic Tour! From early June to late August he crisscrossed the United States bringing his intoxicating brand of enthusiasm and positive coaching to a riders of all ages and abilities at dozens of barns, farms, and training facilities.

“From Portland to Princeton to Philadelphia and Providence, and from San Francisco to Seattle to Steamboat Springs and Spokane, it was a pleasure teaching all the wonderful riders, trainers, and auditors who participated in my 2013 Summer Clinic Tour,” says Daniel. “I want to send a special thanks to all the organizers who set-up my many clinics. Without your hard work the riders wouldn’t have had the opportunity to participate in this tour. Lastly, I want to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome in your barns and at your pony clubs. I hope you all had as much fun learning from me as I had teaching you!”

Here’s a sum up of Daniel’s Summer Clinic Tour… by the numbers:

2 Months

 

50 Clinics

 

42 Cities

 

18 States

 

630 Horses & Riders

 

1,100 Auditors

 

0 days of rain (!)

 

7 days over 100 degrees

 

4 sunburns

 

Wore out 2 pairs of boots

 

Earned a trillion frequent flyer miles

 

Donated over $4,000 to the United States Pony Club!

(Daniel pledged to donate a portion of all his 2013 clinic fees to the USPC.)

You can preorder Daniel's new book at www.HorseandRiderBooks.com!

You can preorder Daniel’s new book at http://www.HorseandRiderBooks.com!

Even if you missed Daniel on tour this summer, you can still jump-start your confidence, your cool, and your general riding performance so you can “do what you love and love what you do” with the help of Daniel’s forthcoming book PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING. Within its fun, invigorating, highly illustrated pages, Daniel shares dozens of specific tools and tricks that can be used to manage the stress, nerves, distraction, anxiety, and panic that so often hinder performance. And he does it as only Daniel can—with humor, candor, and honesty so we not only believe in him, we learn to believe in ourselves.

You can preorder PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING by Daniel Stewart at the TSB online bookstore now!

CLICK HERE TO READ A FREE EXCERPT AND TO ORDER

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