Feb 02, 2019

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Distracting Distractions

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Riding just might be the most distracting sport in the world. From spooks, trips, and bucks to run-outs, refusals, and rails - the only thing predictable about our sport is that it’s unpredictable! After all, you never see a skier yelling at his skis because they spooked at snow, and there’s no such thing as a chestnut-mare-tennis-racket that ovulates the day of the big match! If you can just figure out how to keep your train of thought on track, you’ll be well on your way to riding success.

In order to keep your focus in the middle of our sport’s greatest distractions you’ll need to first get into a sort of distraction-proof mindset called the individual zone of optimal functioning, or IZOF for short. Perhaps more commonly referred to simply as the zone, it refers to the narrow, focused, and calm mental state where you function optimally. It’s a mindset free of doubt and distractions, surprises and stress, and is perhaps the single most important skill you can teach yourself.

So, just how do you teach yourself to get into the zone? Well, there are actually two ways to make it happen but both depend on first creating something called a flow-state - a sort of subconscious rhythm or harmony that changes your thinking from forced, mechanical, and over-analyzing to calm, confident, and un-rushed.

And how do you create the flow-state? Well, the first step is to remember that you’re going to need to find a rhythm or harmony because that’s what’s gets you there. Luckily there are two ways to do this. The first technique is called targeting, which happens when you focus your thoughts on rhythmical sounds while riding (like your horse's breathing, his hoof falls, or the squeaky sound your saddle makes when you ride). The second is called cadence-training and happens when you create your own rhythmical sounds by repeating a cadence like "1, 2, 1, 2," a rhythmical manta like "Be strong push on,” or a funny stress-breaker like “Nationwide is on your side.”

So, let’s connect the dots. The rhythm from your target and cadence gets you into the flow-state - and the flow-state gets you into the zone - and the zone is where you’re distraction-proof - so, therefore, you’re going to need to find a target and cadence!

Here’s a little homework for you this week:

  1. Identify a rhythmical target sound that you can listen to while riding, and
  2. Create a rhythmical cadence that you can repeat to yourself every time you're trying to avoid focusing on the many million little things that be so distractingly distracting!

I hope you’re enjoying my monthly tips! If you are, please consider joining me at one of my dressage, cross-country, or show jumping clinics this summer. You can see all my available clinic dates on the Pressure Proof Academy website. You can also join me at one of my four-day Equestrian Athlete Training Camps this summer in Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Tennessee. For more information, click here.

Interested in sports psychology? Applications for the 2020 Worth the Trust Sports Psychology Scholarships will be available soon and are due on October 7, 2019. For more information, please contact Nancy Knight, (703) 669-9997.

Feb 22, 2019 Competitions

Changes to the USEA Online Calendar Listings

At the end of 2018 the United States Eventing Association (USEA) launched a new website and with this update came a new process for the USEA’s online competition calendar. This change was not a result of the new website, but because of the USEA Omnibus no longer being offered in a printed version.

Feb 22, 2019 Eventing News

USEF Announces Selection Procedures for the 2019 Pan American Games

US Equestrian (USEF) has released the selection procedures for the 2019 Pan American Games taking place August 1-4, 2019 in Lima, Peru. The United States did not secure the necessary Olympic qualifying placing at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018, so the 2019 Pan American Games are the U.S.’s next chance to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Feb 22, 2019 Classic Series

PODCAST: The Thrill of the 'Chase

This week on the USEA Podcast, USEA Classic Series Task Force member Mary Fike comes on the show to talk about the USEA Classic Series and the work the Task Force has done over the last year. Marcia Kulak returns to the show to talk about fitness programs for long format events.

Feb 21, 2019 Future Event Horse

Final Day is for the Future at the 2019 USEA Educational Symposium

The final day of the 2019 USEA Educational Symposium gave judges and auditors the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) program. Demo horses were brought in for a full day of every aspect of the FEH Championships from yearlings to 4-year-olds.

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