While practice may not necessarily always make you perfect, you can probably agree that it’s definitely worth the effort. The good news is that, in the hectic lives of riders, not all practice needs to be physical. In fact, while nothing can replace hard work and dedication in the arena, research has shown that a little mental rehearsal can have a really positive impact on your physical riding.
While you probably already visualize your dressage test, show jumping, and cross-country courses prior to riding, there are three other mental rehearsal techniques that you might want to consider adding to your pre-ride routine. Collectively, these techniques are called riding rehearsals and each one of them is unique because of something called perspective.
While each technique is effective on its own, they’re often best when used together. For example, memorize your jump course by visualizing it from a drone (external); plan your approaches by “seeing” the approach angle to each fence (internal); and visualize adding an extra half-halt before each fence because your horse might struggle with the footing (partner). When you combine all three perspectives in this manner, you create something called mental rotation. Like watching a movie filmed from several different camera angles, mental rotation creates a much more vivid and memorable form of riding rehearsal.
As if this weren’t enough, there’s yet another technique that can make your riding rehearsals even stronger, and that’s by changing them from mental imagery into something called motor imagery. You can do this by simply moving your body in a way that matches what you are visualizing. For example, while visualizing your dressage test, close your eyes and stand or sit as if actually riding (bouncing slightly as if mimicking the sitting trot, performing an actual halt-and-salute at the imaginary X, and opening your inside shoulder as you track left at C).
The reason motor imagery is so highly recommended is because it has been proven to actually lead to muscle memory, meaning that moving while visualizing your ride can make you a better rider!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and that you’ll give it a try. Next month I’ll share even more helpful information about making riding rehearsals a part of your pre-ride program. Until then, 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 winter holiday!
This month we’re going to begin a three-part series on how to create positive riding experiences by making sure the words you say to yourself and the thoughts you think to yourself are positive. Referred to as self-talk, internal dialogue, or brain babble; the words you say to yourself can have a huge impact on your performance. In fact, your thoughts and voice are actually considered behaviors, and just like how positive physical behaviors (i.e. a balanced transition) can create success, your verbal behaviors can also accomplish the very same thing. So let's spend the next few months talking about how to talk to yourself!
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
THANK YOU to everyone who has already entered the USEF/USEA Recognized CDCTA Spring Horse Trials scheduled for Sunday, April 9 in Berryville, VA. We will continue to take late entries through Friday, March 24 using USEA’s Xentry system. If you still want to come compete, please enter! The late fee has been waived through Friday, March 24.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation announces the appointment of long-term US Equestrian employee Hallye Griffin as Director of FEI Sport. Griffin will assume the duties of former Director of FEI/High-Performance Sport, Graeme Thom, who has chosen to step away from his role to attend to personal matters.