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CoachDanielStewart-horseandriderbooks

Coach Daniel Stewart is an enthusiastic force of positivity that makes you smile even when you’re in the middle of getting your riding butt kicked into gear. His mental and physical training techniques have helped boost equestrians from mediocre to masterful all over the globe. At TSB, we’ve been lucky to work with Coach Stewart on three books over the many years we’ve now known him, including his newest FIT & FOCUSED IN 52. Recently, we caught up with him at an airport in between flights to clinics, and he shared a little about his new book, as well as his feelings about clowns, gray hair, and ice cream.

TSB: Your new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 was published in December. It provides a calendar of tips for the rider’s mind and body, one each for every week of the year. What was your inspiration behind this concept and how do you think pairing fitness and focus can benefit riders?

CDS: The inspiration behind creating FF52 was my belief that success in riding—like in all sports—only occurs when we become both physically and mentally strong; when we match a strong leg and seat with strong focus and confidence. I’ve always thought that riding was a sport of distances (like 3-foot fences and 12-foot strides) but perhaps the most important distances of all are the 5 feet below our ears… and the 5 inches between them!

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Coach Stewart with Olympian Boyd Martin, who says, “Everyone can benefit from becoming more confident, focused, and fit…and Daniel’s equestrian sport psychology and fitness programs are a great way to do it!”

TSB: You have been leading a number of high-quality “equestrian athlete camps” around the country. What do you feel these intensive settings bring to a rider’s ability to improve, compete, and succeed?

CDS: My four-day equestrian athlete camps held at the US Olympic Training Center are designed to give developing and young riders access to the same quality of instruction, coaching, and facilities as our high-performing teams receive. While I initially created these camps to help riders improve their success by teaching them how to improve their physical and mental fitness, I was delighted to find out that the riders were also creating amazing camaraderie with their newfound teammates—some of which appears like it might last a lifetime! 

TSB: You and your family and neighborhood were hit hard by Hurricane Irma in September. What is one lesson you learned from the experience, both during the storm and in its aftermath?

CDS: Believe it or not, I actually learned more from before the hurricane hit than I learned from the storm itself! In the days before Irma hit my home in Naples, Florida, my neighbors and I began knocking on doors to see if we could help others in any way. While were greeted with thanks and appreciation, the majority of homeowners actually asked if they could join our “team,” so we all began knocking on even more doors! Before Irma even hit, we had created an amazing community of neighbors working through the fantastic heat and humidity to install hurricane shutters, empty refrigerators, remove potted plants, and complete other such tasks that would help ensure our community was impacted as little as possible. In the end learned that living through something like Irma can really bring a huge sense of community…to a community!

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The scene after Irma at Coach Stewart’s home.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

CDS: I suppose I’d want to bring along a Criollo horse because I understand that history has shown that they can be great swimmers. I recall reading a story about this breed of horse being thrown off of ships in the middle of the ocean (to try and save the ships from sinking) and many of the horses were able to swim great distances to the shores of islands. If I’m getting stuck on an island, I want to have a horse who can get me out of there. As for the book…I’d bring my own! (I wrote it but I haven’t actually had time to sit down and really read the finished copy yet!)

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

CDS: I’ve trekked through Ireland, but I never had the chance to trek from one bed-and-breakfast to another. I’ve heard about these kind of trips and would love to try one!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

CDS: While attributes like loyalty are really important to me, the one quality I look for most in a friend is kindness—kindness to others, to their friends and family, to strangers, and just as importantly, to themselves! I feel that kindness is the root of most everything that is good. Without kindness, for example, all other qualities (such as loyalty) are really going to struggle.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

CDS: The quality I love most in a horse is when I know that they’re giving me 100 percent. It’s not important that their 100 percent be enough to succeed at everything they do… I just love knowing that they’re willing and able to give everything they can at everything they do.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CDS: Clowns. Mimes and clowns. My children have always known this… that’s why they’d always color pictures of clowns in elementary school art class and bring them home for me…

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We’re with you, Coach Stewart…super-scary!

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CDS: I’m definitely not a very extravagant guy. I drive a tiny car, only own one suit (the one I was married in), and count my pennies… but I did splurge on a nice, safe home for my family. Living in Florida means that we always have lots of friends and family spending vacation with us, so I insisted that we buy a home that had at least one guest room (two if you count my office when I get kicked out of it.)

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

CDS: I suppose I could say something like, “I’d like less gray hair or more money to travel the world,” but in reality I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. I love my wife, my life, and my family, and I love my friends and my career. If given the chance, I actually wouldn’t change a thing… it would just be greedy to ask for anything more than what I already have!

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

DS: Greek yogurt, berries, peanut butter, eggs, guacamole, olives, ice cream (my weakness!) and now some weird odor that we can’t get rid of because Hurricane Irma cut electricity to our fridge or a week…

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CDS: Exercising with my children, date night movies with my wife… and ice cream.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

CDS: Instead of a famous person, I’d actually prefer to have a conversation with my all-time favorite horse, Gem Twist, so that I could ask him, “Why did you always buck so much between fences?”

Gem Twist from Unrelenting-horseandriderbooks

Greg Best on Gem Twist at the Seoul Olympics, 1988. Photo by PhelpsSports from UNRELENTING by George H. Morris. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CDS: (1) Be happy in your happy place. (2) Do what you love and love what you do. (3) Everything will be alright in the end; if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.

(You really think I only have one favorite motto? You know I could go on for days!)

 

Coach Daniel Stewart’s new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 is 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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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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