Nov 17, 2021

Pressure Proof: The Opponent Effect

USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo.

Worrying about losing to a rider, or being beaten by another, is a common mistake many riders make. Wondering if you’re going to beat someone or be beaten by someone else is just as common. Together this kind of worrying and wondering is called the opponent effect and is one of the most obvious - and overwhelming - causes of show jitters and performance anxiety.

You've heard me say this before and I’ll repeat it again now. You have no control or influence over the performance of anyone else, so worrying or wondering about them is just a waste of effort that’ll ultimately distract you from focusing on the many things that you can control. More specifically, yourself and all the efforts you’re going to make to ensure success.

While the opponent effect creates obvious stress and anxiety prior to (and during) a ride, it can also affect you following it. Comments like, “I should’ve beaten her” or “I wish he didn’t beat me” rob you of the valuable post-ride time needed to examine and learn from your experience. This is the time to lay the foundation for future success, and you simply can’t do that if you’re focusing on past opponents.

So, if you accept my advice and decide to no-longer view your opponents as threats, just how should you view them? Well, in a single word, as motivators. Other equestrians who work as hard as you and who have dreams and goals like you. Fellow riders who inspires you to reach deep, focus clear, and put forth your best effort; not so you’ll never lose, but so you’ll feel like you’ve given 100% of yourself in 100% of your rides . . . something you’re incapable of doing if you’re focusing even a small percentage on your opponents.

Here's a unique example of how two world-class athletes recently proved success doesn’t come from worrying about each other, but from using one another as motivators. Katie Ledecky entered the Tokyo Olympics as the favorite to win the 400-meter freestyle but a young Australian high-school girl named Ariarne Titmus shocked the world by beating her.

Immediately following the race Titmus was quoted as saying “I wouldn’t be here without her (Ledecky). She set this amazing standard and if I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I wouldn’t be swimming the way I am. I’m really grateful to have her."

In response, Ledecky gave her a hug, congratulated her, and said, “It’s been an honor to race Ariarne. I’m so grateful to have her to race. It was so cool that we were able to do this, to push each other. She motivates me and I think I motivate her.”

Perhaps stories like this, and endless other stories shared by elite athletes who’ve been trained to avoid the opponent effect can help convince you that the role of an opponent is not to hurt you but to help you. To help you feel powerful instead of powerless and to overcome things that might have previously overwhelmed you.

So, the next time your mind wanders to worrying and wondering about your opponents, always remember these four words:

RUN YOUR OWN RACE.

I hope you enjoyed this month's Pressure Proof tip and that I’ll get the chance to teach you in one of my upcoming mounted clinics. The focus of my clinics are always to help you match your strong leg, seat, and position with equally strong confidence, courage, and concentration. If you’d like more information visit www.PressureProofAcademy.com or email me at [email protected].

Dec 08, 2021 Convention

Fast Facts: USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

After a one-year gap, eventers from all over are ready to gather together and engage in four days of seminars, presentations, and gatherings at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. This year’s convention begins Thursday morning at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel and continues through the weekend.

Dec 07, 2021 Young Event Horse

The YEH Yearbook: Class of 2015

Over 40 horses competed in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) 5-year-old East and West Coast Championships in 2015. The YEH East Coast Championships were held during the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland, while the YEH West Coast Championships took place at Galway Downs in Temecula, California. Following 2015’s YEH finale, many of the graduating class of the 2015 USEA Young Event Horse Championships have gone on to make their mark on the upper levels of eventing.

Dec 06, 2021 Education

USEA Podcast #298: Ask The Experts

Nicole Brown is joined by a panel of experts including top FEI veterinarian Dr. Emily Sandler-Burtness, five-star eventer Will Faudree, and professional eventer and horsemanship expert Tik Maynard to answer all of your biggest questions.

Dec 05, 2021 Education

Pressure Proof with Daniel Stewart: The Present is a Gift

I’d like to start my Holiday Pressure Proof Tip with an excerpt from my new book Bolder Braver Brighter.

"Imagine leaning against a tree while your horse grazes happily beside you. You feel the warm sunshine and breeze on your cheek, hear the chirping of nearby birds, and smell the fragrance of the grass and wildflowers. Your horse nickers quietly and all you can think about is how lucky you are to have this horse and this sport and this life… right here, right now.

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