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
Very few stallions compete at the top level in eventing - let alone at the Olympics. Windfall did just that, winning a team bronze medal under Darren Chiacchia for the USA in Athens in 2004. The fact that Windfall now has not one, but two, sons due themselves to compete for the same country as their sire, the USA, in Tokyo really does make him one in a million.
It's the moment we've all been waiting for, and it's almost here. The eventers are set to take the stage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics THIS week, and we're here to help you catch all of the action. Have you been wondering how and when you will be able to watch each phase of the event? You've got questions, and we've got answers!
US Equestrian is pleased to announce the athlete-and-horse combinations selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team at the CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S in Germany, Sept. 15-19, 2021.
The race to Le Lion continues with only three months to go! The 2021 FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France, will be held on October 21-24. The 6-year-old Championship is a CCIYH2*-L, and the 7-year-old Championship is a CCIYH3*-L.