May 06, 2019

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Happy, not Crappy

When you arrive at the barn, you arrive at a place that's more than just fences, fields, and fillies. You arrive at your happy place - the place you go to when you need a little distraction from the craziness of a life that can often leave you feeling a bit frazzled, fried, and frustrated. Unlike other sporting venues like courts and pools, your happy place isn't defined by the location itself, but by the relationships you build with your trainers, peers, and horses.

So what happens when your happy place becomes a little less happy? What happens when your thoughts turn from friends and fun to fears, falling, and freaking out? What happens when your happy place turns into your crappy place?

Teaching yourself to look beyond the problems and challenges that can often affect our sport and stay focused on the silver-linings and lessons-learned there isn’t just necessary to being happy in your happy place, it’s also necessary to being successful there. In fact, studies have shown that you’re up to 34 percent better at everything you do when you’re happy (as compared to everything you do when you’re feeling tense, frustrated, nervous, intimidated, etc.). This means that you’re 34% more likely to ride well when you’re enjoying the process, but it also means that you’d be well-advised to teach yourself how to enjoy the setbacks as much as the comebacks, and the struggles as much as the successes.

This is what social scientists refer to as the happiness advantage and their work shows an overwhelming relationship between success and happiness. Obviously, you’re happy when you're successful - but the reverse is also true - you’re more successful when you’re happy, too.

Here’s how is your brain connects the dots between happiness and performance:

  • You laugh and smile
  • Your brain thinks you’re happy and safe
  • Your brain releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin which are natural antidepressants
  • You become more relaxed, confident, courageous, and optimistic
  • You perform better

On the other hand, here’s how your brain connects the dots when you replace enjoyment with doubt, frustration, and anger. All of a sudden the dots look a whole lot different:

  • You feel nervous
  • Your brain thinks you’re facing a threat
  • Your brain releases the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline
  • You become tense, anxious, nervous, and forgetful
  • Your performance suffers

Learning to connect movements together in a dressage test or connecting fences together in a jump course are definite keys to success in our sport, but learning to connect the dots between enjoyment and performance are just as important. Always remember, if you're too busy to laugh, you’re probably just too busy, so regain your smile and the love of the sport this month and don’t be surprised if you might just replace a little of that stress with a lot more success.

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

I hope you’re enjoying my monthly tips and that I get the chance to see you at one of my clinics, or that I'll see you at one of my four-day Equestrian Athlete Training Camps this summer at the Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Spring, Colorado or Lake Placid, New York. Riders of all levels and ages are welcome! For more information, click here.

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

Sep 17, 2019 AEC

The Thoroughbreds of #AEC2019

The Thoroughbreds came out in full force at the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. In a state that’s known for the sport of horse racing, there were over 193 T.I.P. registered Thoroughbreds that competed at the Kentucky Horse Park for the 2019 AEC.

Sep 16, 2019 Eventing News

Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team Announces Combination Update for FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ The Netherlands

The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team has announced a combination substitution for the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ The Netherlands hosted at the Military Boekelo, CCIO4*-L in Enschede, the Netherlands from October 10-13.

Sep 16, 2019 Eventing News

SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials: The World's Best Are Ready to Go

The stage is set this week for the most exciting running of the SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials to date on September 19-22, 2019. All of the British eventing scene’s top riders, plus many from around the world, are preparing to tackle one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular horse trials, where the newly launched SsangYong Korando SUV will also star, in the unparalleled surroundings of the Blenheim Palace estate in Oxfordshire.

Sep 16, 2019 Convention

Explore the City of Boston! Three Months Until the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

A city where the history is as rich as the food, Boston will see hundreds of three-day eventers on December 12-15 for the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention held at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. The week will be packed with eventing highlights, educational seminars, year-end awards, announcement of grants and scholarships, and USEA’s 60-year birthday celebration.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Riding Helmet of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA