Jan 05, 2021

Pressure Proof with Coach Stewart: Perfect Efforts and Realistic Outcomes

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Two months ago we began a conversation about riding rehearsals; using mental imagery to visualize your ride before actually riding. I introduced you to several unique forms of mental rehearsals (in addition to the normal “crop-drawing” you’ve probably already tried), and the many different perspectives you can view them from (think camera angles). For example, you can “see” your upcoming ride as if viewing it from your own eyes or from the eyes of your horse - or you can “see” it from outside your body as if watching yourself on TV or from an overhead drone. You can even “feel” you mental rehearse as I described in my last two monthly tips on motor and feedback rehearsals. The good news is that mental rehearsals help you mentally and physically prepare for important rides, and there’s no shortage of different ways to do them!

This month we’ll continue this conversation by discussing two new unique forms of riding rehearsals that evolved from two equally unique concepts called (1) positive realism: making the best of a bad situation without losing confidence, and (2) probabilistic thinking: identifying possible problems and solving them before they occur. This month I’m going to introduce you to the perfect and realistic perspectives and I highly recommend you give both a try.

The perfect perspective occurs when you imagine yourself riding perfectly (visualizing your ride going exactly the way you hoped it would, like hitting all the correct distances and making all your lead changes). This is how you’d ride if everything was to go perfectly (which it won’t!) which leads us to the second technique: the realistic perspective. In this perspective, you imagine yourself riding perfectly, but then you visualize a possible (probable?) problem like missing a distance or lead change, but being so well-prepared that you also visualize yourself recovering quickly and ending with success. I like to call this riding rehearsal the “let’s get real” perspective.

The perfect and realistic riding rehearsals are both great tools to put into your mental toolbox, but the realistic perspective tends to be the strongest option for equestrians because it helps you create the positive realism mentioned earlier (which is very important because when horses are involved - doing everything right doesn’t necessarily mean everything won’t still go wrong!) Not only will realistic preparation help you visualize a successful ride, it will also help you prepare for the possibility of it not going exactly according to plan. Remember, you can’t always predict a problem, but you can prepare for it, and that’s the secret behind the realistic perspective.

Regardless of the perspective you decide to use, always remember to combine them with the other riding rehearsals I’ve mentioned these past few months (i.e. visualize your ride going perfectly while watching yourself from a drone hovering above). As you begin the new year, remind yourself that effort and outcomes aren’t always going to be equal. Yes, you’ll always make a perfect effort (i.e. recover quickly after a mistake and never quit) but that doesn’t mean the outcome will be perfect. Remember that you can always control your effort, but you can’t always control the outcome. So, turn 2021 into the year that you pledge to define your success based on your efforts, not your outcomes.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip. Next month we’ll wrap up the subject of riding rehearsals, but until then feel free to 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 holidays or New Year!

Mar 02, 2021 Affiliates

IDCTA Presents: A Live Stream with David O'Connor

On Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Central time, join Eric Dierks for a live stream interview with David O'Connor. David was an alternate for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and riding Wilton Fair, was part of the U.S. team at the 1990 World Equestrian Games, where he placed 35th individually and the team finished fourth.

Mar 02, 2021 Volunteers

Billy Jackson: USEA's Volunteer of the Month

Billy Jackson was introduced to horses at a young age through his local 4-H program. “One of my mom's close friends was a large animal vet and she really encouraged me to stay with it,” Jackson said. As an adult, he is a Marketing Project Manager, and when he’s not at work, he’s a lower level eventer based at Poplar Place Farm.

Mar 01, 2021 Competitions

Weekend Quick Links: March 6-7, 2021

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

Mar 01, 2021 Eventing News

Badminton Horse Trials Cancels 2021 Event

It is with great disappointment and regret, which we know will be shared by many, that we announce the cancellation of the 2021 Badminton Horse Trials which was due to be held “behind closed doors” between May 5 and May 9. This cancellation also includes the BE90 and BE100 Championships (May 4 and 5).

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