How to improve your riding by up to 80%...

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Improving your performance without a horse in sight…

 Mindset Picture

If I told you your performance, whether that be in everyday training or during competitions, can be improved by up to 80% without being in the saddle, you might think I was mad! However, it is 100% possible!

You may not realise the restrictions your mind can create, from tension which blocks the horse’s back as a result of your body reacting to mental tension, to forgetting your dressage test right I the middle, or taking a “check” which wasn’t needed on the approach to a 110mtr spread resulting in a pole down, or a “silly run out” across country at the jump you raised your eyebrows at during the course walk. There are so many examples of times when your mind works against you without you even realising it.

So how do you “fix it”?

Well, firstly it isn’t even broken so there is nothing to “fix”! Really? Yes!

Many clients report back to me after a competition and mention the “bad bits” first, then say how well the “good bits” were. Even when they have achieved a personal best!!  I even get feedback after a less than 100% schooling session with negativity, when the horse perhaps gave you their all that day. The negativity bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of the horse not quite “getting it” or “I rode badly today” etc, more powerfully than we feel the joy of when the horse goes really well or learns a new movement.

Understanding the way the mind works is the first step towards “fixing” the mentioned issues.

The mind has 2 main areas, the Subconscious and the Conscious. The subconscious is responsible for the programming of patterns we develop over time and is a vast space where memories and patterns are stored for retrieval when needed. It is also known as the Primal mind and is “silent” as it works away.

The conscious mind refers to the thoughts, feelings, and memories that you are aware of during any given moment. It is very small and hold a very tiny amount of information at any one time. However, it is the “noisy” part of the brain, meaning we tend to act on the thoughts we are having.

So, how on earth can this help me with a silly run out cross country? Or stop me taking an unnecessary “check” when approaching a large fence?

By retraining your mind to help you rather than hinder you, that’s how!

An example of how the mind may work against you might be that “raised eyebrow” at a cross country fence which you have “history” with. Let’s say a drop fence, you may have had some issues with these, horse not wanting to step off, you may have fallen, you may have been eliminated etc, so during your course walk you come round the corner and “OH NO A DROP”, my horse is not great at these, and this is a monstrous one. You may not have verbally said this but simply by seeing the drop your subconscious immediately remembers the traumas over this type of fence and being a primal brain it immediately says “right we need to protect us here” and when you approach the fence during your round your primal mind tells your modern mind to stop riding the way you had up to that point, your horse says “um, not today thanks” and you run past it. You wouldn’t even recognise this as it is so subtle, but it happens, the mind keeps us safe.

The same with the 110mtr jump, spreads might have been a bit of a problem recently in training, so walking the course your modern mind automatically says “we got this” and although you rode the turn in a balanced canter, you were set up perfectly, 2 strides out your primal mind says “hold on a moment” and your modern brain says “what?” and then automatically takes that “check”, causing an imbalance and a pole down. All these things happen in milli seconds, hence your surprise at then end of the round when you come out and say “why on earth did I check him there?!”

To address these issues in training I hear trainers shouting “sit up” “Leg on” “be positive” etc, but that is only addressing the physical side, because the issues are embedded in the subconscious library of memory, the real issue sits there and reappears when it feels threatened, hence why it usually shows itself in competition when you don’t have your trainers voice to focus on.


What I have found since becoming a Neuro Linguistic Programming  (NLP) Master Practitioner, is that once the subconscious mind is reprogrammed, much like a computer, those “old issues” are erased, and I watch riders go from strength to strength as their mind works WITH them. Speak to any rider who has used a mindset coach or NLP (or both!) and hear how it has totally transformed their riding.

It isn’t just you that benefits, your horse will love you for it too as they will be receiving aids with clarity rather then “are we doing this or not mum?”.

Mindsetting has become a standard tool to use alongside your riding coach in all disciplines. The pro riders have been using it for a long time now and if it works for them, then we can all benefit from it, yes?

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