Last month we began a conversation about riding rehearsals (visualizing your performance before your actual ride). While you probably already do some form of mental rehearsal (maybe waving your crop like a magic wand while “imagining” your ride), we spoke about several other unique ways to visualize your ride. For instance, you can visualize your ride as if looking out from your own eyes; as if watching yourself on TV; from above as if from a hovering drone; or even as if seeing your ride from the eyes of your horse. You can even combine them all together and create something called mental rotation.
Regardless of the technique(s) you use, riding rehearsals deserve a place in your mental toolbox because they allow you to practice skills, even at times when you can’t actually practice riding. What’s more, they can also help you practice skills that shouldn’t be practiced (like learning how to fall or reacting to a spook). I suppose falling over and over again is one way to get better at falling, but you might want to save yourself the time (and pain) by practicing it mentally!
This month I’m going to introduce you to the most unique - and complex - form of riding rehearsal. It’s called a feedback rehearsal and it doesn’t just help you become a better and more successful physical rider, it helps you become a better and more resilient mental rider.
Feedback (or biofeedback) rehearsals work in three stages:
You can give feedback rehearsal a try right now. Begin by visualizing a challenging mental situation (like being afraid of falling or showing in front of a crowd). Once you’ve created the mental image, think of the negative physical reactions that usually occur when you experience it (i.e. holding your breath, hunching your shoulders, and tightening your muscles), and then purposefully hold your breath, hunch your shoulders, and tighten your muscles! Once you’ve created these stress-responses, spend a few short seconds really feeling them. Get to know them. How do they feel? How do they make you act? After these few mindful seconds, spend a full minute creating a new series of positive replacement behaviors to rid your body (and mind) of those unwanted emotions and reactions (like taking a few deep cleansing breaths, sitting tall and opening your shoulders, and relaxing your muscles).
It’s important to remember that the focus of a biofeedback rehearsal is always placed on the positive reaction to the negative action. You simply train yourself to identify the negative feedback from your body (i.e. becoming aware you’re holding your breath) as a way of triggering your mind to replace it (automatically) with a positive response (like taking deep cleansing breaths).
The idea behind this kind of riding rehearsal is that you get better at whatever you practice… so this month why not use biofeedback to get a little better at recognizing unwanted emotions and the physical reactions that accompany them; and replace them with more positive and appropriate ones! Just pick your problem (is it the nervousness caused by judges, spectators, losing, failure, mistakes, spooks, or falling?). Once you’ve found it… feel it and fix it!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip! Next month we’ll wrap up the subject of riding rehearsals, but until then feel free to email me at [email protected] if you’d like me to teach a Zoom webinar on equestrian sports psychology to your barn, school, or Association during the holidays or New Year!
Coach Daniel Stewart will be hosting a Zoom Webinar on the topic of equestrian sport psychology during the 2020 USEA Virtual Convention on Thursday, December 10 at 10:00 a.m. ET. To access Coach Stewart's webinar, click here.
After not running in 2020 and 2021, the MARS Bromont CCI Three-Day Event returned to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Center in Quebec, Canada, in 2022. America's Jennie Saville (née Brannigan) and Twilightslastgleam won the CCI4*-L, as the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem x Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner moved up from eighth after dressage into the lead after cross-country with the fastest round on wet ground over the tracks designed by Derek di Grazia. Canada's Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge, a bay Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago x Lelia) owned by Patricia Pearce, finished second, and they are among four from the top-10 in the CCI4*-L in 2022 that return in 2023.
Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was on a winning streak at the Essex Horse Trials on Sunday, claiming victory in both the $10,000 Open Intermediate and Open Preliminary divisions with two horses that are fairly new to her. Some difficulty on cross-country did not stop her mount Hachi from claiming victory in the Open Intermediate with a score of 101.6, while Open Preliminary partner Rockster finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “We win our games in practice.” With the goal of having the most effective practices possible for horses, their riders, and their coaches, Cathy Wieschhoff explains some signs that can indicate when horse and rider should repeat an exercise, switch it up, or be done with that activity. Wieschhoff brings perspective as a five-star rider that has competed at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Burghley Horse Trials, a USEF “R” Course Designer for eventing cross-country and show jumping, a former Area VIII chair and member of the USEA Board of Governors, and a Level V USEA ECP Certified Coach based out of Carriage Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Poland CCIO4*-NC-S at the Strzegom Horse Trials (Poland) from June 21-25, 2023. The team will be under the direction of USEF Eventing Emerging and Development Coach Leslie Law.