May 29, 2022

Pressure Proof with Daniel Stewart: Plan Your Ride & Ride Your Plan

USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo

This month we’ll begin a summer-long series covering four mental-preparation plans to help strengthen your self-confidence while weakening the grip that jitters and fears have on you. The purpose of these plans is to give your brain something it so very badly needs: the perception of control. You see, when your brain feels in control it allows you to control your emotions, but when that perception is taken away, your brain senses threat and stress… which weakens your confidence and strengthens your jitters and fears! This is when your emotions start taking control of you. In the end, you really only have two choices when it comes to riding, (1) control your emotions, or (2) let your emotions control you… and that’s exactly what we’ll be spending the summer talking about.

Even though the four plans function differently, they’re all designed to help your brain experience the same sense of control, which they do by creating a series of predictable and repeatable pre-performance routines and/or pre-ride rituals that reduce the number of things that can go wrong, while also helping you prepare for those things that do. Remember, you can’t always predict when bad things will happen, but you can prepare… and your brain loves that (prepare = control)!

Before I introduce the first plan, let's talk about two common ingredients shared by all four:

  • Pre-Performance Routines: Pre-defined actions you’ll take five days to five minutes before an important ride.
  • Pre-Ride Rituals: Pre-defined actions you’ll take five minutes to five seconds before an important ride.

Riders never plan to fail, but they do sometimes fail to plan and that’s where our first plan comes in. I like to call this the Plan Plan because it’s the plan that happens when everything goes according to plan! This is how you prepare mentally for an event where everything goes right and nothing goes wrong- no last-minute rain delays, pulled shoes, or loading refusals. As you’ve probably already guessed, this is a great plan but one that doesn’t always happen (that’s why there are three others!).

Here’s an example of a Plan Plan:

  • Five days before: Begin a healthy eating plan and work on two skills your horse struggles with.
  • Four days before: Begin a light fitness (or yoga) program and continue working on your horse’s skills.
  • Three days before: Start getting to bed early and hydrating so you're at your peak for the event.
  • Two days before: Decrease the intensity of your horse’s work and pack your tack trunk.
  • One day before: Give your horse a rest day while building a playlist of motivational music.
  • Night before: Watch a light-hearted movie to keep your spirits up.
  • Morning of: Wake up slowly with a few minutes of relaxing yoga and/or meditation.
  • Hauling in: Listen to your motivational playlist while recalling positive rides from your past.
  • Upon Arrival: Put yourself in a great mood by showing gratitude to at least three volunteers.
  • Mounting: Give yourself a shot of confidence by sitting in a power posture (think Superman).
  • Entering warm-up: Rid yourself of worry by complimenting a few of your competitors.
  • Exiting warm-up: Stand quietly for a few minutes while visualizing your ride (riding confidently).
  • At the in-Gate: Repeat a positive affirmation or mojo-mantra like, “I can do it, nothing to it."
  • Entering the arena: Take a deep breath, smile, pat your horse and say, “We got this."

While I agree this all seems intensely OCD, if you repeat this plan in the same way before every important ride you’ll begin to create a sort of predictable path to those events, which will ultimately satisfy your brain’s need for the perception of control- and let’s be honest, equestrians can be big control freaks. We’d even control the weather if we could - but we can’t! The only thing you can control is yourself, so the best Plan Plans only focus on things like your health (rested, fit, hydrated?), your horse’s training (peaking at the correct time?), and your mind (excited, motivated, confident?).

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and are looking forward to the next three - somewhat more unusual plans. Until then, I’m teaching my first post-Covid instructor certification course next November in Naples, FL. If you’d like to join my coaching team and begin teaching Pressure Proof lessons, seminars, and/or clinics just email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you more info!

May 28, 2024 Competitions

Woodside Spring Horse Trials Spotlight Development of Eventing’s Future Stars

The Horse Park at Woodside created a five-star atmosphere for the inaugural Laughing Monk Modified Match that took place at the 2024 Woodside Spring Horse Trials. The goal of the Modified Match was to spotlight the Modified level that was introduced to competition at The Horse Park in 2023 and has made a significant impact on the progression of eventing’s rising stars since the level was introduced to the sport in 2017.

May 28, 2024 Volunteers

Membership Minute: Volunteers are the Superstars of Eventing

There are a lot of moving parts behind every horse trial, but one of the most important facets to an event running smoothly is the dedication of the volunteers working the event. Let’s face it, our sport would not be what it is without the time offered up by these individuals. Without the contributions of volunteers, it would be impossible for an event to operate in the way that it needs to and at a cost that competitors could afford. That is why it is so important that we continue to not only recognize the amazing volunteers who give up their weekends to support our sport, but also carve out time in our schedules to volunteer as well and give back to the sport in that manner.

May 27, 2024 Eventing News

A Trip Down Memory Lane with the U.S. Olympic Event Teams of Years Past

The hype around this summer’s Olympics in Paris, France, is building with each passing day! In preparation for the summer games, which take place Friday, July 26, through Sunday, August 11, we decided to take a walk down memory lane and revisit the performances of the U.S. eventing team at the Games in years past.

May 26, 2024 Eventing News

How Foxhunting Paved Melanie Smith’s Path Up the Levels of Eventing

“I always say that my secret weapon out competing is bad weather and bad footing,” said Melanie Smith. Though the Georgia-based rider is a competitor by nature, having completed three 50K Ultramarathons, it was a non-competitive sport that made the most profound impact on where she is today. Decades of foxhunting taught her to trust her horse, fine-tune her cross-country skills, and navigate tricky conditions.

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