Optimum Performance for Success!
The colours of Spring are illuminating our world and new life is coming in to view. The sounds of milder weather and returning friends fill the air. It’s show time!
The preparation begins! The winter schooling and learning is complete and you’ve worked on your own physical fitness and that of your horse. You’ve cleaned up the transport, the jacket is back from the dry cleaners, you’ve cleaned your hat and polished your boots until you can see your reflection bouncing off the leather. The rugs, numnahs and protective boots are all ready and your tack is looking fantastic, right down to the stitched detail.
Your horse looks wonderful, muscled in all the right places, brimming with enthusiasm and energy for their work and a coat that shines like glass. Perfection! It’s taken a lot of hard work to prepare for this season’s competition. So, are you really ready? Have you thought of everything and ticked off your entire ‘to do’ list? Or, have you missed a critical ingredient of your guaranteed success? Are you psychologically prepared for what’s to come?
Your mental preparation is perhaps the most important element to ensure your competitive success. Psychological fitness is what separates good riders from great riders, mediocracy from excellence. Are you ready?
Optimum sports performance begins with belief. Beliefs are constructs around which we organise our behaviour and so they soon become self-fulfilling prophecies. What we focus on is what we get, so it’s critical that our beliefs are empowering and enabling. The way in which we represent what we believe to be true, in that part of our mind that we call the ‘unconscious’, ultimately produces our behaviour, which in turn produces the behaviour of the horse.
Our internal representations of our experiences are held in our unconscious minds and are built up of a rich tapestry of sounds, pictures, feelings, tastes and smells. The internal representation we create directly affects our emotional state which in turn changes our physiology. In equestrian sport, more than any other, this rapid cascade is crucial, simply because it’s your physiology that is in direct contact with your horse. Is it any wonder your horse sometimes receives messages that you didn’t intend to send? Your leg, seat and hands may be technically and quite correctly instructing your horse to go forward, whilst your unconscious physiology is telling them, no don’t, I feel nervous, or anxious or even afraid. Mixed messages indeed. Poor communication is often mis-interpreted as poor riding or bad equine behaviour. It really is the thought that counts.
Total mental preparation means really embracing the ability to communicate with your own unconscious mind and to control your emotional state, even in times of extreme pressure.
That’s when the psychologically prepared riders rise to the top. The great news is, it isn’t difficult and you can learn how easily. Let’s make this season a successful one for you and your beautiful horses.