We’ve spent the summer discussing different ways to overcome the kind of things that can overwhelm you and more specifically the three different plans you can use to control your emotions when they risk taking control of you. The plans we’ve discussed so far all fall under the category of pre-ride routines and they include the "normal plan" (routines you do pre-ride when everything goes according to plan), the "quickie plan" (routines you do pre-ride when you’re late or rushed) and the "hurry-up-and-wait plan" (routines you do pre-ride when encountering a delay).
Perhaps some of the most troubling, yet common words you’ll ever hear before any class, clinic, or competition are: “sorry folks, we seem to have a delay on course.” You’re perfectly prepared and are ready to perform only to have it all thrown out the wait window. You’ve warmed-up well, arrived at the arena on time and peaked - only to be told to hurry up and wait! Thankfully, you have a plan prepared for this very possibility: your Delay Plan.
Last month we began a four-part series on mental preparation and the many kinds of pre-ride routines you can perform to control your emotions so they don’t take control of you. If you recall, the purpose of these routines is to give your brain the perception of predictability and control because as soon as your brain loses these it senses threat and stress which weakens your confidence and strengthens your jitters and fears.
This month we’ll begin a summer-long series covering four mental-preparation plans to help strengthen your self-confidence while weakening the grip that jitters and fears have on you. The purpose of these plans is to give your brain something it so very badly needs: the perception of control. You see, when your brain feels in control it allows you to control your emotions, but when that perception is taken away, your brain senses threat and stress… which weakens your confidence and strengthens your jitters and fears! This is when your emotions start taking control of you. In the end, you really only have two choices when it comes to riding, (1) control your emotions, or (2) let your emotions control you… and that’s exactly what we’ll be spending the summer talking about.
We all began riding for the same reasons: the love of the horse and the love of the sport. Back then we spent as much time laughing as we did lunging and as much time smiling as we did circling. It wasn’t about the color of the ribbon, placement on a leaderboard, or worrying about beating or being beaten. Back then we spent more time feeling fun than frustrated and thought more about joy than judges.
No one’s perfect (nope, not you either) so it’s just a matter of time before you make a mistake, mess up or miss an opportunity. There’ll come a time when you do everything right but it’ll still go wrong, or a time when you do your very best but it won’t be good enough. Regardless of the mistake, mess-up, or missed opportunity you’ll always be able to make up and move on as long as you’re mindful of the words you’re using to describe that experience . . . and this is where verbal erasers come in.
Curiosity and inquisitiveness are signs of resilience because mentally tough riders continually seek answers to questions that might otherwise bother them. They continually ask the kind of questions that help them to replicate successful efforts; while also asking the kind of questions that help them to learn from, and avoid replicating unsuccessful ones. These self-directed questions become one of their greatest assets because they provide them with the valuable feedback needed to grow from every experienced, both good and bad. Without these questions, much of the learning that learning opportunities can deliver are simply left undelivered. In the world of sports psychology, it’s kind of like the opposite of Amazon Prime!
If you’re like most people there’s a good chance you made a New Year's resolution this month, and if you’re like most there’s a really good chance you’re going to have a hard time hanging onto it past the beginning of February!
I’d like to start my Holiday Pressure Proof Tip with an excerpt from my new book Bolder Braver Brighter.
"Imagine leaning against a tree while your horse grazes happily beside you. You feel the warm sunshine and breeze on your cheek, hear the chirping of nearby birds, and smell the fragrance of the grass and wildflowers. Your horse nickers quietly and all you can think about is how lucky you are to have this horse and this sport and this life… right here, right now.
Worrying about losing to a rider, or being beaten by another, is a common mistake many riders make. Wondering if you’re going to beat someone or be beaten by someone else is just as common. Together this kind of worrying and wondering is called the opponent effect and is one of the most obvious - and overwhelming - causes of show jitters and performance anxiety.
The only sure thing about riding is that sooner or later you’ll succeed- and sooner or later you’ll fail. Like it or not, the reality of a sport as complex and challenging as ours is that doing everything right doesn’t always guarantee things will turn out that way. You’ll present your horse the perfect fence with the perfect approach and perfect quality canter, all to have it go south because of a plastic bag in the corner! Unfortunately, you’ve picked the wrong sport if you wanted everything to go right all the time.