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!

Jun 29, 2022 Eventing News

USEA President Max Corcoran Appointed USEF Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator

On May 1, 2022, Max Corcoran was appointed as the Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator. In her role, Corcoran will support the areas of communication, logistics, and management of the teams for the Eventing Programs to deliver sustained success at World and Olympic Games level. As the Facilitator, she will work closely with the interim Chef d’Equipe/Team Manager, Bobby Costello, and eventing staff to build solid lines of communication with athletes, grooms, owners, coaches, veterinarians, and all stakeholders linked to the athletes and develop the structures around the Elite Program and senior U.S. Eventing Team.

Jun 29, 2022 Education

A Case for Warming Up (and How to Do It Correctly) with Kyle Carter

Imagine: you are at the biggest sporting event of your life. The stakes are high, and you have spent countless hours preparing for it. However, you are expected to just show up and immediately perform. You cannot stretch or take a practice swing. You have no time to loosen up or sharpen your eye. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Just like us, our horses need adequate time to warm up each day. A warmup is any preparation for work, and it is often the leading edge of that work. It is the small aid response that becomes the more advanced aid response.

Jun 28, 2022 Hall of Fame

Newest Invitation to USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame Extended to Trish Gilbert

This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founding fathers, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches

Jun 28, 2022 Rules

Rule Refresher: What Will Be Expected of Me at the Training and Modified Level?

Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels.

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