Jun 22, 2023

Pressure Proof with Daniel Stewart: No Excuse for the Excuse

Daniel Stewart coaching. Photo via Daniel Stewart Newsletter

For the past few months, we’ve been talking about the power of our words and how we can use those words to stop the flow of negative thoughts and replace them with more positive alternatives. When I teach clinics, I often remind riders that words are good, but they’re only as good as the actions they create...and that’s where this month's Pressure Proof tip comes in. Learning to believe in our ability to think in a positive way and take responsibility for our actions so that we can change unwanted feelings of hopeless or powerless into feelings of hopeful and powerful. This month, let’s continue talking about how we can use our words to evolve from worriers into warriors.

Did you know that your brain is capable of thinking up to 60,000 thoughts a day? That’s about 40 thoughts a minute or one thought every 1.5 seconds. But here’s the bad news. To the untrained brain, up to 70 percent of those thoughts can be considered counterproductive to our success because they contain words that lean in the direction of dread, doubt and defeat, "why mes" and "what ifs." Unfortunately, our brains are just really good at thinking really bad things—unless of course we teach ourselves to recognize and replace those unwanted thoughts with more positive and productive options.

One common form of doubtful thinking is called a pre-excuse. Remember that time when you were worried about riding poorly so you made-up a few convenient excuses just in case it happened? Nice move. Before you even made a mistake, you protected yourself from it by telling yourself (and anyone who’d listen!) that it wouldn’t be your fault! For example, saying, “I know I won’t ride well today because I have cramps and a headache” is a great way to protect yourself from the sting of a struggle that might happen. After all, if you don’t ride well it’s not your fault; it was because you had cramps and a headache! Most riders wait to make an excuse until after a mistake happens—but some riders actually figure out how to make them before they even get started!

Pre-excuses are considered part of the defense-mechanism family because they seek to protect you from possible disappointment by deflecting blame away from you and onto something else. The goal of a pre-excuse is to simply convince others that you didn’t mess-up (It was the headache and cramps' fault!). But, here comes the sad part: pre-excuses are called lose-oriented thoughts because they force your brain to focus on the possibility of losing something important (like a successful outcome) when in reality all you really lose is your belief in your ability to make it happen. For this reason, pre-excuses are defined as self-handicapping because they unintentionally lower your self-belief, which almost always lowers your ability to succeed.

The key to overcoming pre-excuses is to simply remind yourself to never complain and to never predict or protect yourself from possible problems by using pre-excuses. One of my favorite quotes is, “Good riders work until they get it right, but great riders work until they get it wrong...then figure-out how to make it right!" It’s the courage and curiosity in the face of adversity or a challenge that make great riders great—and the belief that pre-excuses have no place in their mental toolboxes.

So, this month, why not challenge yourself to change any unintentional hopeless or powerless thoughts into hopeful and powerful ones by making a list of your most common pre-excuses (FYI, you probably use the same ones each time) and then vow to never use them again. Just do your best and accept the rest!

I hope you've enjoyed this month’s Pressure Proof tip... I have plenty more interesting tips for you in the coming months! Until then, if you’d like to learn more about rider fitness including building exercise programs at the barn, stretching, warm-ups, injury prevention, and recovery please let me know. This July, I’m beginning an online rider strength and conditioning course that I think you’d love. Email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you more info!

Jun 17, 2024 Eventing News

O'Neal and Clooney 14 Capture the Win at Inaugural Aspen Farms CCI4*-S

At the end of an exciting weekend at Aspen Farms Horse Trials, Karen O'Neal and Clooney 14, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Annika Asling, sealed the win in the inaugural CCI4*-S. They started the division in the lead with a dressage score of 35.0, but then dropped to second after show jumping on Saturday due to one rail.

Jun 17, 2024 Eventing News

Get Ready for the Maryland International and USEF Eventing Young Rider Championship

The countdown to the Maryland International & Horse Trials hosted at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland, on July 5-7 has begun. With competition for all FEI divisions from CCI1* to CCI4*-S, as well as national levels Training through Advanced, local riders will be able to compete alongside the best of the best.

Jun 17, 2024

Fast Facts: EA21 Regional Clinics

One of the best parts of summer is the return of the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 Program (EA21) Regional Clinics! This will be the third year that the USEA is offering these two-day educational sessions for the chosen applicants. There are five clinics taking place across the U.S. over the course of the summer. A USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) certified instructor will guide 12 hand-selected applicants at each clinic.

Jun 17, 2024 Eventing News

USEA Podcast #363: Team Talk | Paris, Here We Come!

USEA Podcast Host Nicole Brown is back for one of the most exciting podcasts of the year, the Team Talk with USEF Eventing Technical Advisor and Chef d'Equipe Bobby Costello! With the recent announcement of the horse and rider pairs that will represent the U.S. at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France, Costello takes some time to discuss the team selections and upcoming preparations to gear the team up for this year's Games.

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