Apr 14, 2022

Pressure Proof Tip with Daniel Stewart: Peaches and Potty Squat

USEA/ KTB Creative photo

We all began riding for the same reasons: the love of the horse and the love of the sport. Back then we spent as much time laughing as we did lunging and as much time smiling as we did circling. It wasn’t about the color of the ribbon, placement on a leaderboard, or worrying about beating or being beaten. Back then we spent more time feeling fun than frustrated and thought more about joy than judges.

It’s only natural that you experienced these carefree emotions in the beginning because back then you didn’t know what you didn’t know! The pressure was low and enjoyment was high. But as you advanced as a rider you may have been tempted into the competition arena at which time your emotions might have taken a bit of a turn . . . because it was then that you realized that other riders were better than you, winning felt a whole lot better than losing, and judges didn’t like your horse! It was then that things like show-jitters and nervousness might have begun to change your thoughts from carefree to comparing (to others), and from fun to fears of falling or failing.

While it’s only natural that your thoughts became more serious as your riding career progressed, does it really need to be that way? While yes it’s extremely important to take things like horse care, stable management, training tools, and safety seriously, does it have to come at the expense of enjoyment? Just because you develop a strong winning spirit, does it mean there’s no room left for laughter? In fact no, you can have them all as long as you remind yourself to take enjoyment and enthusiasm just as seriously as you take the rest of your riding- and that’s where this month’s tip comes in.

A while back I overheard my son talking with his girlfriend and when their conversation became a bit heated she looked at him and said peaches. I didn’t know why she said peaches, but I did notice that when she did he stopped talking, took a deep breath, and began speaking more calmly. When I asked why she said peaches, she told me that they’d mutually agreed that whenever things got a bit too serious they’d use the word peaches as a trigger to dial things back. Interestingly, not long after that, I overheard my daughter say bubbles to her boyfriend mid-conversation. When I asked why, she said they liked the idea of defusing stress and seriousness with peaches, only they liked the word bubbles better.

In general psychology, trigger words like peaches and bubbles are called safe words; words that bring into awareness and bring to an end the unnecessary stress or seriousness of a situation. Once the word has been spoken, both participants agree to step back the seriousness and respond more calmly. But you can put an interesting spin on safe words by simply using them by yourself. In other words, you can use a previously defined safe word every time you begin to feel yourself becoming a bit too stressed or serious. Here are a few fun examples of safe words used by other riders to stop the stress:

Pumpkin: This word reminds a rider how much fun she had in a recent Halloween costume class dressed as a rainbow on a unicorn.

Potty Squat: This word reminds a rider how her trainer thinks the two-point looks like potty-squatting.

Martini: This rider reminds herself that no matter what happens today . . . it’ll all feel better soon.

California: This rider says California because according to her, as soon as you hit California the good times begin.

Toilet: This rider has no idea why her father yells toilet when she enters the start box, but it makes her laugh every time!

As you can see, a common thread among safe words is humor; because there’s nothing better at defusing the seriousness of a stressful situation better than a little comedy. So while yes, it’s important to take things like horse management and safety seriously, it’s just as important to take your enthusiasm and enjoyment equally as serious . . . and to do that may be all you need is a few peaches or bubbles. This month remind yourself how enjoyable riding can be by coming up with your very own safe word.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip. Next November I’m teaching my first post-COVID instructor certification course in Naples, Fla. If you’ve ever thought of becoming an equestrian mental coach or clinician email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you more information.

Jun 16, 2024 Eventing News

Grandia Moves Into the Lead at Inaugural Aspen Farms CCI4*-S

A big crowd gathered at Aspen Farms Horse Trials Saturday afternoon to watch the inaugural CCI4*-S division take on the show jumping track designed by Chris Barnard. Supporters, sponsors, competitors, and visitors enjoyed watching FEI show jumping during a 4-Star Reception with catered food and beverages, sponsored by Southern California Equestrian Sports.

Jun 16, 2024 AEC

Be a VIP at the 2024 USEA AEC by Volunteering!

Do you have plans to attend the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds at the Kentucky Horse Park this Aug. 27 – Sept. 1? Make your mark on the event by signing up to volunteer! Volunteer positions are open to everyone, including competitors, trainers, owners, fans, friends, and family that are making the trip to Lexington, Kentucky, later this summer, and the USEA highly encourages its members to find the time in their busy schedules to give back. These Championships cannot run without the support of hundreds of volunteers that donate their time.

Jun 15, 2024 Eventing News

Aspen Farms Kicks Off with Inaugural CCI4*-S

Aspen Farms Horse Trials started with a full day of dressage competition on Friday under fair skies. More than 300 competitors from throughout Area VII and beyond are competing this weekend, and five horse/rider combinations entered Aspen Farms' inaugural CCI4*-S—the first ever offered in the state of Washington.

Jun 15, 2024 Young Event Horse

Second Class of YEH New Judge Education Program Now Open for Expressions of Interest

The United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) is excited to announce that applications for the second class of the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) New Judge Education Program are now open. Qualifying candidates, which are no longer required to hold a USEF judge’s license as of 2023, are encouraged to sign up to participate in the YEH New Judge Education Program to receive certification to judge the Jumping and Galloping phases of Young Event Horse competitions.

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