Nov 03, 2020

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Riding Rehearsals

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

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.

  • External Perspective: Visualize yourself as if looking at yourself for above or beside (i.e. like from a drone or watching yourself on TV)
  • Internal Perspective: Visualize yourself as if seeing your ride from out of your own eyes (i.e. imagine seeing each jump as it approaches)
  • Partner Perspective: Visualize your ride as if seeing it out of the eyes of your horse (what must he be thinking when you point him towards a four-foot wooden squirrel!)

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!

Jan 21, 2021 Intercollegiate

Study Up on the 2021 USEA Intercollegiate Team Challenge Calendar

Since the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was founded in 2014, it has grown in popularity and participation each year. The USEA is excited to have 23 intercollegiate team challenges on the calendar in 2021 in addition to the 2021 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships, which will be held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia on May 27-30.

Jan 20, 2021 Grants

Worth the Trust Scholarship Will Return in 2022 and 2023

In 2000 and with the support of Joan Iversen Goswell, the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarships were established to provide financial assistance to amateurs to pursue their education in eventing. The funds from the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarships may be used for training opportunities such as clinics, working student positions, and private or group instruction, or to learn from an official, course designer, technical delegate, judge, veterinarian, or organizer.

Jan 20, 2021 Leaderboard

Benjamin Noonan Tops 2020 RevitaVet USEA Young Rider of the Year Leaderboard

The Linda Moore Trophy was introduced in 1979 and awarded to the leading Young Rider in the country. After a strong showing during the 2020 season, 16-year-old Benjamin Noonan of Ballwin, Missouri was named the 2020 RevitaVet Young Rider of the Year.

Jan 19, 2021 Instructors

The USEA Educational Symposium Will Not Be Held in 2021

The USEA is sorry to announce that there will be no USEA Educational Symposium held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The USEA Educational Symposium is hosted annually each February as a week of learning for participants and auditors.

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