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Posts Tagged ‘riding tips’

DontLookDown-horseandriderbooks

We’ve all heard it over the years: “Don’t look down!” And maybe, “You look at the ground and that’s where you’ll end up!”

The real reason we shouldn’t look down while we’re riding doesn’t have as much to do with running into things or falling off as it does with the horse’s ability to perform.

You see, our eyes are heavy!

“Many of us have a habit of looking down while we are riding,” explains founder of the International Horse Agility Club Vanessa Bee in her book OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES. “We look at the ears of our horse, or the ground, or we lean over to see if we are getting it right when learning to move the individual feet of the horse. But our eyes are heavy! Try the following experiment and you’ll begin to appreciate how difficult we  make it for our horses to move when we look down.”

1 Stand on a flat surface and balance your weight evenly through each foot.

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2 Look down at your right foot.

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3 Now lift your right foot off the ground. How easy does it feel?

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4 Now stand up again and balance your weight evenly through both feet.

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5 Look up to the right.

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6 Now lift your foot. Much easier, isn’t it?

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“If you were riding your horse and asking him to lift his right front foot off the ground, imagine how difficult it must be if you suddenly lean over and peer down to see if it is working,” Bee emphasizes. “So look up and feel that foot lifting. It’ll be so much easier for both of you.”

Over Under Through Cover FINAL-horseandriderbooksOVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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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Brain-Training-Tip-21-horseandriderbooks

“We humans like to view ourselves as rational creatures who make reasoned, logical decisions and choices,” says Andrea Waldo in her bestselling book BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. A former psychotherapist who now focuses on her training business and riding students, Waldo tells it how it is when it comes to managing our brain and stress.

“Ideally, we want our choices to support our long-term goals,” she explains. “But 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.’ It thinks only about the immediate moment, and it cares about only one thing in this moment: survival.

“Winning the evolution game is about surviving long enough to reproduce and pass on your DNA to the next generation. Up until very recently, humans lived in an environment with lethal threats all around: saber-toothed tigers, poisonous snakes, enemy tribes. Our ancestors that survived long enough to reproduce didn’t survive because they avoided fast food and gluten and balanced their checkbooks every week; they survived because their brains developed a mechanism to get them out of danger as fast as possible. This mechanism is known as the Fight-or-Flight Response (FOFR). Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re grooming your horse and you’re leaning over to brush mud off his belly. Suddenly he kicks up at a fly and you jump out of the way just in time to avoid being kicked yourself. You realize he came dangerously close to nailing you right in the head! Now imagine how you feel: your stomach is quivering, your heart is pounding, your hands are shaking a little, and every muscle is tense. You’ve just been protected by your FOFR.

“When your brain perceives a threat in the environment, the amygdala signals the brain to engage the FOFR. A surge of stress hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol, are released into your bloodstream and trigger a rapid series of physiological changes. Your heart beats faster to get more blood to the major muscle groups in your arms and legs, which tense up to prepare to fight or run. You breathe faster to get more oxygen into your bloodstream. You start to perspire. Blood is channeled away from your extremities and momentarily unnecessary organs such as your stomach. This is why you may get cold hands and butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous, and why you have such a hard time relaxing your muscles enough to deepen your seat and stay tall in the saddle. An important point to note here is that the FOFR can activate when it perceives any threat. It responds whether that threat is physical, such as a kick from a horse, or psychological, such as the worry that you’ll forget your reining pattern. It also gets activated whether the perceived threat is real or imagined. This is why you can feel jittery just picturing your horse bucking you off.

60465_lizard-face“The Lizard Brain can’t tell the difference between something you imagine vividly and something that’s actually happening. On the positive side, you can feel great when you imagine something wonderful; on the down side, you can panic your Lizard Brain by picturing something terrible happening. You can also make your Lizard Brain angry (the fight in Fight or Flight) by imagining a conflict. (Ever re-live an argument with your significant other in your mind and find yourself angry all over again? Hello, Lizard Brain!) One more interesting thing happens during the FOFR. The prefrontal cortex— the Rational Brain that thinks things through logically—shuts down. It’s never even consulted in the Fight-or-Flight process. It’s as if you were flying over southern California at night, and all of a sudden, Los Angeles went totally dark. The FOFR flips a switch, and off goes your Rational Brain. At first glance, this may seem like an evolutionary design flaw. Why on earth would you want your logical thinking capacity disconnected? However, it makes sense when you look at it from a survival perspective: Imagine you’re a caveman a hundred thousand years ago. One morning, you stroll out of your cave and spy a saber-toothed tiger stalking in the bushes. Your Rational prefrontal cortex might say something like this: ‘Oh, hey, a tiger. Or is it a lion? Nope, it has saber teeth, definitely a tiger. What should I do? I could hit it with my club—no, that’s in the cave. I could climb that tree or hide behind that rock, but it might find me. I guess I’d better run—’ CHOMP! By now, the tiger has finished his delightful lunch of cave-human. In life-or-death situations, reasoning and logic simply take too much time. Instead, the amygdala hollers, ‘TIGER! RUN!’ and you live to see another day.

Brain Train for Riders Final

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“This, dear rider, 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.”

You can find out how to tame your Lizard Brain in Waldo’s BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS, 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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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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In his bestselling book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, famed rider, trainer, and coach Denny Emerson details seven areas of choice each of us face during our evolution as equestrians, and how our decisions in those areas transform us from “wannabes” to “gonnabes”…or don’t. He also shares experiences drawn from his lifetime working with horses—competing, learning, and teaching—including this demonstration of one renowned coach’s genius:

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The “genius” Jack Le Goff. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Sometimes there are coaches so gifted at manipulating the hearts and minds of their players that they transcend ordinary coaching to become legendary figures in their chosen sports.

In my lifetime there have been three of these coaches connected with the United States Equestrian Team: Bertalan de Nemethy and George Morris, both coaches of the USET Show Jumping Team, and Jack Le Goff, who arrived in the United States from his native France in 1970, hired to revive the flagging fortunes of US Eventing.

In July 1974, the US Eventing Squad chosen to compete at the Burghley World Championship Three-Day Event in September flew from New York to London to spend a couple of months leading up to the big event training at a facility in the south of England.

We were, as Stalin said to the Russian troops as they finally invaded German soil, “in the belly of the beast.” Through the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, the English Three-Day Team had crushed all opposition. As we began our tentative challenge to that English might, we were painfully aware that our English hosts were the reigning gold medalists from both the 1970 World Championships and the 1972 Olympic Games.

One quiet summer evening a wave of excitement swept the American camp. Richard Meade, the captain of the English team and the current Olympic goal medalist, was coming to try a horse that someone had brought in as a sales prospect.

All six of us trooped down to the show-jumping arena to watch Richard school this horse, and we were perched on the top rail like six birds on a wire. I looked down the country lane that passed by the schooling area, and who should be strolling toward us but our coach, Jack Le Goff, complete with fishing rod, reel, and high-topped waders.

I was sitting next to our team captain Mike Plumb, and I said something to him like, “Won’t Jack be interested to watch this?”

Mike replied, “He won’t even stop.”

Sure enough, Jack walked right on by, smiled, called out, “Hello, everybody. Hello, Richard,” but didn’t even pause.

Mike knew Jack better than I did, and he also understood Jack’s psychological insight into his riders. Later, I also understood what Jack had done, but I didn’t at the time.

Jack wasn’t going to validate Richard Meade in our minds by paying him the slightest attention. To acknowledge that this gold-medal winner had anything to show that was worth Jack’s time would not have been the way to persuade us that we had what it took to beat the world’s predominant three-day-event team.

Thirty-four years later I told this story to George Morris, another Olympic gold medal coach. “Jack is a genius,” said George, “and you know I don’t say that about many people.”

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The medal ceremony at the 1974 World Championship Three-Day Event at the Burghley Horse Trials. Prince Philip presents the gold medals to the US Team (left to right): Mike Plumb on Good Mixture, Bruce Davidson on Irish Cap, Denny Emerson on Victor Dakin, Don Sachey on a borrowed Cajun as his Plain Sailing was injured. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Emerson’s book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

(And watch for his new book, coming Fall 2018!)

TSB also publishes George Morris’s autobiography UNRELENTING and Jack Le Goff’s HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST. You can buy them at a special package discount HERE.

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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Did you know your knees can obstruct your horse’s ability to go forward? It’s weird to think about—but true! Your seat bones and feet  play a role, as well, but they are secondary to the knees.

You can use this easy test with an exercise ball to identify bad habits that may explain why your horse does (or doesn’t) respond to you in certain ways.

“The exercise ball has no brain and only does what you do,” explains biomechanics expert Wendy Murdoch in her bestselling 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES. “The ball’s movement is created by the student—intentional or otherwise. Therefore, the ball illuminates habits, offers explanations as to why the horse responds as he does, and provides an environment in which to learn new patterns. It also allows both the instructor and the student an opportunity to sort out problems before attempting to resolve them on the horse.”

1. Start by sitting in the full seat position on the ball. If necessary, place a marker to the side to see which direction the ball is rolling. To begin, individually isolate the movements of your pelvis, knees, and ankles, then combine them to determine which has the greatest influence on the direction the ball rolls. At first, you may think your ball is not reacting as it should. But the ball doesn’t lie. Have someone watch you (or work in front of a mirror) to discover what you are doing so that you can control the ball and explore the various combinations accurately.

2. When you maintain a 90-degree angle at the back of the knee without making the knees rigid, you will find that hollowing your back rolls the ball slightly back, while rounding rolls it slightly forward.

3. Beginning from a 90-degree angle at the back of the knees, straighten your knees and the ball will roll back; bend them again and it will roll forward.

4. Now lift the front of your feet and press on the floor with your heels. The ball will roll back. Lift your heels, leaving the front of your feet on the ground, and the ball may stay in place or roll forward, depending on how much you bend your knees.

5. You can override the effect of your pelvis and feet by straightening or bending your knees. Round your lower back, lift your toes, and let your knees bend: the ball rolls forward. Straighten your knees: it will roll back. Hollow your lower back, lift your heels, and bend your knees: the ball rolls forward. Straighten your knees: it rolls back.

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Note that when you straighten your knees with your feet in the stirrups, you are bracing against your horse’s forward movement regardless of whether your lower back is hollowed, rounded, or flat, and whether your foot position is heels down or toes down.

For more exercises that illuminate riding position habits in interesting ways, check out 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES by Wendy Murdoch, 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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BeanorTennisFB

To the uneducated eye, posting the trot is just a series of silly looking, seemingly purposeless, up-down movements. But riders understand what it takes to make rising and sitting to the two-beat rhythm of the horse’s diagonal gait complement rather than hinder his movement.

“The skilled rider uses rising trot to get the tension in the horse’s fascial net in sync with her own,” writes biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless in her newest book THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, “so together they get in rhythm and ‘play the right note.’”

Here’s how Wanless helps us understand how this dynamic works:

“Imagine two people sitting opposite each other and playing a game of catch with a tennis ball. Each throw involves bouncing the ball once. This is a cooperative game, with its own distinct rhythm, in which neither person is trying to catch the other one out. ‘Bounce, catch’ mirrors ‘sit, rise’, and our analogy is essentially describing the exchange of force and energy between horse and rider.

“Imagine the human game in full swing – until one person cleverly substitutes a bean-bag for the tennis ball. When this barely bounces, it marks the end of the game! Or perhaps one person suddenly substitutes a ‘boingy’ ball, and the game immediately speeds up as the ball travels faster.

“The skilled rider maintains the equivalent of a tennis ball game, even when the horse would rather throw bean-bags or ‘boingy’ balls. It is as if the rider says, ‘Sorry horse, but whatever you attempt to throw me, I am throwing back a tennis ball,’ maintaining this resolve and technique until such time as the horse takes a deep sigh and agrees to throw tennis balls!

“Whilst some heavy horses have wonderful ‘boing,’ most ‘bean-bag’ horses are from the heavier breeds. They trot as if their legs were stuck in porridge, since the recoil energy in their tendons and ligaments – and the force transmission along their respective lines of pull – is not enough to enable them to ‘ping’ off the ground. Iberian horses can be like this too, and any horse with a ‘soggy’ fascial net will be heavy on the ground and lack the spring of elastic recoil.

“Most riders fall into the trap of throwing a bean-bag back to this kind of horse: they land heavily in the saddle and press down into it. This is incredibly instinctive, and is encouraged by phrases like ‘sit deep and drive the horse forward,’ but a heavy landing will inevitably deaden your horse. The game then becomes a vicious circle as the ‘bean-bag’ tendencies of each partner amplify those of the other. Understandably, most riders soon start to feel like a desperate, disgruntled, and thoroughly jangled bean-bag! The only answer lies in landing lightly and quickly – in a trampoline-like way – thus encouraging the horse to be lighter and quicker on the ground. The rider may also need to kick, and to tap with a whip, but she must not throw bean-bags or she will get bean-bags back.

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Pausing at the top of the rise can help you counter the “boingy” horse.

“In contrast, ‘uptight’ Thoroughbreds throw ‘boingy’ balls. The rider who gets ‘boinged’ out of the saddle by the horse’s ‘boinginess’, loses control of the tempo, and the game speeds up unless she can make a momentary pause on each landing (without becoming soggy like a bean-bag). This keeps the horse’s feet on the ground for a fraction of a second longer. If the rider can also make a pause at the top of the rise (when the other diagonal pair of legs are in mid-stance) this again will act to keep the horse’s feet on the ground for longer. This slows the horse’s tempo, and changes how his fascial net rebounds from the ground. He has no choice but to throw tennis balls back to the rider.”

For more insight into how the rider’s fascia works, how the horse’s fascia works, and ways we can influence how they work together, check out THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, available now 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 company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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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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