Last month we began a series of monthly tips discussing defense mechanisms and coping strategies. It’s common for these terms to be used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. Coping mechanisms are mental strategies that resolve stressful thoughts and feelings, while defense mechanisms are behaviors that attempt to avoid or hide from them.
This month I’ll introduce you to two new defense mechanisms and two new coping strategies. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of all four before, but hopefully they’ll remind you that you always have a choice when your thoughts and emotions begin to feel overwhelming. You can either hide from them, or you can overcome them.
Denial is one of the most common ego-defenses and occurs when a rider refuses to accept responsibility for their mistakes, mess-ups, and missed opportunities. Instead of admitting and owning them (so they can learn from them) they block them from their mind so they don’t have to deal with them. In other words, they deny and repress responsibility for bad events so they can avoid the painful feelings that accompany them.
Displacement happens when a rider denies upsetting thoughts or behaviors and directs them towards something, or someone, else. Throwing a baseball bat to the ground or breaking a tennis racket are common examples of athletes using displacement to satisfy a negative impulse. Our sport, however, is not nearly as forgiving. While throwing your gloves to the ground after a disappointing round won’t help or hurt; taking your frustration out on your horse with a smack or a yank is always unacceptable. Riders who have an ego large enough to allow them to do this need to ask themselves if riding is the right sport for them.
Sublimation occurs when you redirect negative emotions into positive, constructive, and empowering behaviors. For example, instead of directing anger towards your horse because of two recent falls, you instead channel that energy into a fitness program to improve your leg, seat, and core. The real benefit of sublimation is that it creates the habit of changing negative emotions into positive behaviors.
You can anticipate a potentially stressful event in one of two ways. By worrying about it or by preparing for it. Riders who use anticipation as a coping mechanism always select the latter; mentally rehearsing the efforts they’ll make to create favorable outcomes and overcome things that might otherwise overcome them. The idea behind anticipation is that proactively anticipating stressful events (instead of avoiding or denying them) makes those events feel more predictable and less threatening.
I really hope these tips help you become more mindful of the choices before you. You can either hide and deny uncomfortable emotions, or you can face and overcome them. In the future, always remember that what lies in front of you, and what lies behind you, pale in comparison to what lies inside of you!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and that I’ll get the chance to teach you in one of my upcoming summer clinics. For more information on my clinics, or hosting one, please visit www.pressureproofacademy.com
Weren’t able to spend your morning glued to the livestream of the 2021 Maryland 5 Star cross-country? Couldn’t be there in person to trek up the hills? We have you covered with a play-by-play of what happened on Ian Stark’s cross-country course which gave both the designer and the riders many sleepless nights, but ended up riding quite well for the majority of the field.
The forecasted downpours held off until the last horse and rider crossed the finish flags during the CCI5*-L cross-country at the Maryland 5 Star today, confirming the event’s decision to move up the start. The majority of riders had sunny skies and a cool breeze as backdrop to tackle Ian Stark’s five-star course across the sprawling grounds at Fair Hill in Elkton, Md. Before cross-country there was much chatter about the testing terrain, but 11 pairs managed to make the time despite the hills. At the end of the day, the top three riders held onto their podium positions going into show jumping tomorrow with overnight leader Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class (Ramiro B x The Swallow) impressing all who watched at each and every question.
It's the day we have all been waiting for, cross-country day at the inaugural Maryland 5 Star! Both the CCI5*-L and CCI3*-L field will contest Ian Stark's terrain-filled track across the historic grounds at Fair Hill today and there is lots of chatter about how the questions, terrain, and time allowed might impact the current placings.
Chris Talley came into the Dutta Corp USEA YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championships knowing that the Corwin Sport Horse LLC’s owned 5-year-old Hanoverian mare Gina (Gentleman x Ballerina) possessed a lot of quality, but to emerge victorious out of the 42 horse field was an absolute treat for the pair.