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showingmindsetFB

Ah, show day! The delightful mix of butterflies and caffeine churning within as you rise with the sun. The bustling activity on the grounds as horses are fed, walked, and bathed. The knowledge that at some point in the very near future, you will stand before the masses and be judged

Sure, there are any number of cool cucumbers who can compete without missing a beat, but the majority of us struggle to some degree with show nerves and performance anxiety. In his book PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING, renowned sport psychology expert Coach Daniel Stewart explains that one of the keys to success in this arena is to develop a strong showing mindset.

“The showing mindset is a subconscious skill that helps you avoid over-thinking, overreacting, and overanalyzing during competition,” says Coach Stewart. “The time for all that has passed; the time for self-analysis and criticism is gone; and the time for trust has arrived. Studies have shown that no appreciable learning of a skill—mechanical or technical—takes place on show day. This only happens at home during your lessons. So trying to improve while showing is an ineffective use of your time. As soon as you drive into the venue’s parking lot or exit the warm-up arena, you need to confidently transition from your schooling mindset, to your showing mindset, and just trust that all the self-critiques, analysis, and feedback from your lessons have prepared you well for the demands of the next few minutes.

“Showing with a schooling mindset also creates the impression that the harder you try, the harder it gets. For example, the more a jumper tries to see the distance to her next fence the harder it becomes (the dreaded ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ syndrome), and the harder a dressage rider tries to sit up perfectly straight, the more tense she becomes. When you show, no matter the discipline, it just happens too fast; you don’t have the time to analyze the height of your hands, the placement of your leg, or the position of your hips. You must turn off your conscious thoughts and allow your subconscious to take over. You’re on autopilot, trusting your training, and just letting it happen. In riding, this is often called riding freely, and it is here that you learn to trust, not train.”

Coach Stewart says that in order to ride well and compete at your best your mental approach to showing must be very different than your mental approach to schooling. Here are three of his tips for developing a strong schooling mindset:

Try “Softer”—Trying too hard or schooling when you should be showing can lead to pressure and fear of failure. Replace anxiety and self-criticism with self-belief and confidence.

Focus on a Task—Focus on a positive task, like repeating the motto, “Trust not train,” to stop your schooling mindset from getting in the way of your showing success.

Use a “Show-Starter”—Identify a cue that will create a boundary between your schooling and showing mindsets. For example, tell yourself to “start” your showing mindset when you hear the ding of the bell before your dressage test or when you walk into the start box before going cross-country. The sound of the bell, and the location of the start box, sets the boundary between your mindsets.

 

Pressure ProofGet more tips from Coach Daniel Stewart in PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

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

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Author Melinda Folse seeks ways to ensure we all find paths to empowerment and joyful living with horses.

Author Melinda Folse seeks ways to ensure we all find paths to empowerment and joyful, fulfilling lives with horses. Photo by Caroline Petty

 

TSB author Melinda Folse has counted on horses as a touchstone since she was a little girl.

“I’ve been hopelessly in love with horses all my life,” she says. “I inherited this mutant gene from my dad, who is similarly afflicted. What time I didn’t spend dreaming about, learning to draw, and reading about horses became, on and off in my early teens, early 20s and mid forties forward, actual ownership, riding, and having horses in my life in one way or another.”

Now Folse—a writer by trade—has several published books to her name, including LESSONS WELL LEARNED, which she cowrote with renowned horseman Clinton Anderson, and her own bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. Her newest work brings her penchant for playful banter while digging into the heart of the matter to what for many is a tricky subject: body image. RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN finds us discussing not only the more commonly considered concepts of rider fitness and biomechanics but also that-whole-heckuva-lot that goes on in our heads and in our hearts when we catch sight of ourselves in the arena mirror. How many of us have asked ourselves, as Folse likes to say, “Does this horse make my butt look big?”

What led Folse to this topic?

“Three things, really,” she says. “First, my publisher Trafalgar Square Books said they wanted to do this book and would I be willing to write it. Second, I have personally struggled with my weight for most of my life. (Most of this, in retrospect, was in my head.) Third, and what is usually the most compelling reason for me to write what I write: I was curious.”

Has Folse seen a shift in the culture around body image and riding? Is there a difference between this cultural shift in the horse world and society in general?

“It’s no secret that obesity rates are skyrocketing,” she says, “and that trend is echoed in the horse world, as it is just about everywhere else. Two important distinctions for equestrians of all disciplines are that because we have another living being depending upon us to be smart, conscientious, and kind, there is an additional layer of responsibility that comes with true excess weight when we ride. The second thing is a bit wigglier and subjective. It’s hard to break through the layers of what we think and get to what really is. For riders, extremes of behavior range from giving up horses altogether to a dangerous dance with eating disorders to stay ‘show ring skinny.’”

"I wanted answers, to my questions and yours, when it comes to the complicated topic of 'body image.'"

“I wanted answers, to my questions and yours, when it comes to the complicated topic of ‘body image.'” Photo by Caroline Petty

Is this a topic we speak of openly in the horse communities, or is it considered taboo?

“I think there’s plenty of both,” admits Folse. “People can be very unkind to plus-sized riders — sometimes to their faces, and more often when cloaked in the anonymity of blogs and forums and social media. I’ve read some true meanness from those who accuse overweight riders of animal cruelty — and some pushback with solidarity that is truly heartwarming from communities around the world documenting how smart strong fit riders of all sizes actually feel lighter and take better care of their horses than most ‘average-sized’ riders put together.”

Are women in the show ring more worried about how they look than how they ride? How significant is the pressure to conform to a certain “norm” when competing?

“Fat-shaming in the show ring, just like everywhere else, is reaching epidemic proportions,” Folse says. “And it is doing damage, both to young girls just starting out and older riders excited to be showing again or for the first time. Negative feedback comes from other competitors, spectators on the sidelines, and sometimes even from judges. A great recent Horse Illustrated article, ‘Body Shaming in the Show Ring,’ by  Patrice D. Bucciarelli encourages riders to continue showing in spite of negative feedback. I agree. The more we all just return to being fit, confident riders, the better off we’ll all be, including and especially our horses!”

So how does a rider know what is a healthy weight?

“The best answer is . . . it depends,” Folse explains. “It depends on your body type. Your bone density. Your fitness level. Your goals and dreams. When it comes to riding horses, the best answer my experts gave consistently across the board is that it’s not your weight but how you use it that matters most. That’s where we get into the fitness, balance, energy, and mindfulness components of riding well, along with the horse you’re riding and what kind of riding you’re trying to do. Navigating between real and imagined limitations — and finding the right solution tailored to your own needs and circumstances rather than some chart — is just part of what RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN is all about.”

How can someone make an honest assessment of where they are and what they need to do? What kind of “thinking” needs to change in order to start down a healthier path?

“I know this sounds counterintuitive,” Folse says, “but you do have to love your body right now, first, in order to move toward the one you want. Self-acceptance and self-compassion doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook for making lifestyle changes that will ultimately pay off in the saddle. Horsekeeping in and of itself demands strength, stamina, and skill beyond the norm, and it’s time we appreciate our bodies for what they already do — even as we try to nudge them toward whatever goals we want to set, based on what we want to do next with our horses or in our life.”

So what’s the bottom line in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN? Is it saying it’s okay to be heavy if you ride well? Or that overweight riders need to lose weight so they can ride better?

“I think the most important message — and the one I hope comes across to readers loud and clear — is that it’s not about weight at all,” says Folse. “It’s about being healthy, strong and fit — and riding with balance, energy, and mindfulness. It’s about making good thoughtful decisions about the horse you ride, the fit of your tack, and what you are choosing to do, at what level. It’s about being realistic and setting appropriate goals. It’s about moving forward with joy and confidence and feeling good about your body and what it can do — and finding the courage to break free of whatever has been holding you back from riding, working with, and enjoying your horses.

“The mindfulness piece of it is huge. We need to stop beating ourselves up for real or imagined weight issues, take an honest look at our individual circumstance, and find ways to be healthy fit and proactive — regardless of shape or size. Our focus needs to change to figuring out how to rediscover the joy we’re meant to have with our horses and in our lives.”

 

EQUUS-EXCERPT-TWITTER

You can read an exclusive excerpt from RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN in the March 2016 issue of EQUUS Magazine. The book is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to to download the FREE Body Image Self-Test from RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN

 

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

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George&Queen

In 1960, a rising equestrian star named George Morris won the Horse and Hound Cup at the White City Stadium in London and received the cup from Queen Elizabeth. Check out this flash from the past!

George Morris joins liberty specialist Jonathan Field, reining champion Craig Johnson, and colt-starter Bruce Logan at the Jonathan Field and Friends International Horsemanship Education Conference THIS WEEKEND, September 20 and 21, 2014, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. CLICK HERE for more about the event.

And here’s that little-seen video of George Morris meeting Queen Elizabeth:

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JackCR

COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons features original cartoons by dressage trainer and illustrator Karen Rohlf.

When I was nine and working my first “muck-for-lessons” detail, I had my earliest encounter with the Jack Russell Terrier. The young woman who ran the barn and gave me said lessons had a pair of crazed little dogs: The black-and-white one was “Pie” (short for Piebald) and the brown-and-white one was “Skew” (yes, as you might imagine, for Skewbald), and they happily spent their days torturing hoof trimmings out back by the manure pile or terrorizing my family’s cats, who occasionally made the mistake of tailing me up the hill in the back field that joined our properties.

Being young and a “first generation horse lover,” I didn’t know then what I know now—that Jack Russells are sought, bought, and traded on the horse show circuit like push-button ponies. In her new book COLLECTIVE REMARKS, FEI dressage judge and former Technical Advisor to the US Dressage Team Anne Gribbons explains a little about this phenomenon—what she calls “An Affliction Called ‘Jack Russells.'”

COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Many of Us Suffer from an Affliction Called “Jack Russells”

Early on, our family always had dogs of “proper” size (at least knee-high) that displayed “normal” dog behavior. The Jack Russell terror in our house started with a phone call from friends who were at a terrier trial and saw these “adorable puppies” just desperate for a good home. At the time, neither my husband nor I had a clue about terrier trials or the fact that a Jack Russell is never desperate for anything.

With a lot of encouragement from people who were really just looking for partners in crime, we agreed to look at the puppy. It was a female, about fist-size. She looked harmless enough, and like all puppies, was irresistible. She moved in and immediately took over operations.

We named her Digger, and that stopped her from ever digging anything. Instead, she concentrated on climbing trees. Her great passion in life was squirrels, and in pursuit of her prey she would hurl herself into the trees and tear up the branches in complete oblivion to the fact that this was not a dog thing to do.

If she ever downed a squirrel, I’m sure it was from a heart attack, since the creatures certainly never expected the dog to follow them up the tree.

We were forever approached by visitors who would hesitantly ask us if we thought that there was a dog in the tree out front. We would once again drag out the ladder and get Digger down while the people sighed in relief (relief that they weren’t crazy).

 

Scary Jack

Don’t think for a minute that a Jack doesn’t know exactly what it is doing and why. They are truly scary.

One weekend, my mother informed me that she “had a surprise for me.” Strange things happen when Mother visits, and I sure was surprised when she showed up with another Jack Russell puppy. It was a present from my groom, who got a puppy from us for Christmas two years earlier.

Payback is a bitch, but in this case it was a dog, and we named him Chipper.

Chipper had eyes just like Lady in Lady and the Tramp—big, brown and sparkling—and Digger tolerated him, although she found his fascination with fetching balls, sticks, and anything people would throw a bit much. When we lost Digger to sudden heart failure, I thought a breather from the Jacks would be nice, but then our borrowed live-in kid wanted a puppy, and the circus was on again.

At a show in Tampa, Florida, I found Scooter. He was the opposite of the ugly duckling: As a puppy he was adorable, and every day he matured to become more splay-footed, cross-eyed, and long-backed. His final shape is odd, to say the least, but Mother Nature tries to keep things in balance, and Scooter is one of the smartest dogs I have ever met.

He is a hunter to the core. Left to his own devices, he will use the dawn’s early light to pile up half a dozen rats, who find themselves dead before they even wake up in the morning. He never barks, just strikes and kills without a sound—and goes on to the next victim.

Chipper loved to torture Scooter when he was a puppy. He would keep Scooter at bay by growling and snapping and generally demonstrating who was in charge at every opportunity. One day Scooter, now much heavier and certainly twice the length of Chipper, decided he’d had enough. He promptly bit Chipper’s ear off. As my husband dove for the half ear to rescue it, Scooter looked him squarely in the eye and swallowed hard. All gone!

After repeated fights, both dogs were neutered, a feature that only slightly tempered their urge to kill each other but in no way got rid of their basic aggressiveness. Both of them will stand up to a dog any size at the drop of a hat. I think the breed is missing the gene that helps evaluate size because it’s hard to imagine that every Jack Russell was born with a Napoleonic complex.

 

The Trials

Recently, we hosted a regional championship Jack Russell trials, complete with agility, go-to-ground, races, conformation, and some other classes. A glaring omission in the prize list was a class for obedience—what a surprise! The Jacks are the nightmare of every dog school instructor, and perhaps the accepted fact that they “don’t train well” is one of the reasons for the popularity that they enjoy with horse people.

After all, when you spend all day schooling horses, you have little energy left to train the dog. If the dog is known to be virtually untrainable, you can shrug, sigh, and apologize for his unruly behavior while feeling confident that everyone understands that things are beyond your control.

One positive feature is the “easy handling,” which allows you to carry, transport, wash, and hide in hotel rooms this little dog, which will wake up the whole hotel with his sharp barking if the spirit moves him.

The Jacks always stray where they aren’t supposed to be at horse shows, but they rarely get in trouble (although you do). They have a sixth sense about horses and appear to know from birth how to avoid being flattened by their hooves, even while in hot pursuit of game.

A good hunting Jack—which is 99 percent of them—is far better than a cat as a deterrent for rats, since they waste no time playing games. They just carry on like little killing machines, displaying the most ardent bloodthirst and pure joy in hunting. They may look sweet and innocent curled up on the couch, but you can see your little pooch get up, stretch, yawn and say to himself, “Well, I think I’ll go kill something.”

 

Everything but Boring

A few years ago, I ran into a man at Dressage at Devon in Pennsylvania who was posted next to a cage with four Jack Russell puppies. All our relatives and friends had at least one by then, so I wasn’t interested, but I had a German girl with me who went all aflame and ran to call her parents about the possibilities of becoming owned by a Jack Russell.

While she was away, the man with the puppies asked me, “Don’t you want a puppy?”

“Absolutely not,” I said, “I can’t stand them.”

The man hesitated, then leaned closer to me and whispered, “Neither can I. These belong to my wife.”

We then commiserated about the horrors of the breed until we ran out of breath.

“So,” he asked when we were finally through, “how many Jacks do you have?”

I reluctantly admitted to two. He also had two, in addition to the puppies. We each confessed we probably would always have at least one around.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because,” said the man, “all other dogs bore me.”

 

In COLLECTIVE REMARKS: A Journey through the American Dressage Evolution: Where It’s Been, Where We Are, and Where We Need to Be, Anne Gribbons shares the best (and in some cases, the worst!) of her personal experiences over the last 40 years as a rider, trainer, breeder, facility owner, sponsor, competitor, instructor, coach, and judge. With almost 70 chapters based on Anne’s popular “Between Rounds” column in The Chronicle of the Horse, readers essentially experience “time travel,” reliving challenges and celebrations alike, with the opportunity to critically ponder the changing face of dressage in the United States over two decades.

Anyone with an interest in dressage, its controversies, its most famous names, and its future in the United States will enjoy Anne’s stories, but the true value is in her ideas for improving our horses, our riders, and our ability to compete on the international scene with success and integrity in the years to come.

Download another FREE excerpt from COLLECTIVE REMARKS by CLICKING HERE.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER NOW

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER NOW

 

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DS quote

Striving for the impossible—that is, perfection—is one of the greatest causes of stress and underperformance. It occurs when an intense need to win makes it impossible for you to accept anything less.

Perfectionists mean well and try hard, but usually overthink, overanalyze, and are self-critical. They set the “bar of expectation” so high it almost always leads to a chain of events characterized by making a mistake, dwelling on it, feeling frustrated, and becoming disappointed because they’ve let themselves–and perhaps others—down.

Sound familiar? See if these 6 common habits of perfectionists describe you when you ride, train, and/or compete. Do you:

  • Place unreasonably high demands on yourself?
  • Make mistakes because your fear of underperforming makes you tense?
  • Feel most motivated by ribbons, standings, spectators, or “beating” your opponents?
  • Struggle to ride in the “present” because you are focused on (future) outcomes?
  • Attempt to ride with perfect technique, which causes you to ride mechanically?
  • Feel unable to let go of your mistakes or like you must make excuses for them?

The good news is, you CAN overcome perfectionism! In his fantastic and energized new book PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING, sport psychology expert and international riding coach Daniel Stewart gives you these tips for changing your perfectionist habits, loving riding more, and riding better because of it:

  • Set goals focused on how you’ll perform rather than how you’ll finish.
  • Learn from your mistakes: They are learning opportunities not missed opportunities.
  • Focus on the solution to a problem instead of a problem itself.
  • Focus on yourself, not on others, whether lesson mates, opponents, or spectators.
  • Stay in the present moment: Avoid thinking about past mistakes or future standings.

PRESSUREPROOF here

For loads of clearly defined, individual steps to mental and physical success in the saddle, including ways to strengthen mental imagery, goal-setting tools, stress management techniques, keys to sensory, short-term, and long-term memory, and much much more, check out PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING, by Daniel Stewart, available now at the TSB online bookstore.

“I truly believe that, regardless of your understanding of sport psychology, Pressure Proof Your Riding is an essential read.”

–Kevin Price, CEO US Pony Club

“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

CLICK HERE TO READ A FREE EXCERPT OR ORDER NOW

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TSB is headed to Texas and Florida!

TSB is headed to Texas and Florida!

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook and Senior Editor Rebecca Didier are hitting the road, traveling to two of the nation’s horse-hot-spots and visiting with some of our best-known authors while experiencing beautiful farms and ranches and top-notch equestrian competition.

For the next seven days, we’ll be reporting in periodically as we travel to Fort Worth, Texas, Wellington, Florida, and a whole lotta places in between. You can follow along, hear about who we see and what we think, and see pictures of all our experiences by checking in on this blog, the TSB FB or Twitter, or on Instagram (follow horseandriderbooks).

Texas (left) and Florida (right)--headin' to horse country, no matter how you look at it!

Texas (left) and Florida (right)–headin’ to horse country, no matter how you look at it!

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 9.34.52 PM

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