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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Equestrianism


Top 10 Mental Strategies To Banish Equestrian Fear
And Boost Horse Riding Confidence

Margarethe de Clermont

One thing I have learnt during my struggles to become a better horseback rider is definitely non-negotiable: Whatever it is that you want to achieve with your horse and your riding, there is one fundamental concept you have to accept in all its complexity: you have to exercise you mind with as much diligence as you exercise your body.

There is a vast variety of mental exercises at the thinking rider's disposal: mental rehearsal, anchoring, resourceful state induction, eradicating limiting beliefs with affirmations, reframing, perceptual positioning and many more at least one to suit every rider, though most riders prefer to use their own combination of techniques. The following ten are some of the greatest confidence boosters for horseback riders.

1. Start by accepting yourself exactly as you are.
You are good enough exactly as you are now. That does not mean that there is no room for improvement, just that you are perfectly acceptable in whatever state or condition you are right now. And while you are at it, give your horse a break and accept him too, just as he is now.

2. Mental rehearsal
Athletes everywhere use this technique to prepare themselves form competitions. Imagining and fine tuning every step of their performance results in a dramatically enhanced outcome.

3. Installing anchors
An anchor is a stimulus that generates a specific state of mind. For example, touching a thumb to an index finger while holding the reins could be an anchor that will make you feel more confident in the saddle.

4. Journaling
Keeping a journal or training can be a powerful confidence booster. When you feel as if your training is going nowhere, you can look back at past achievements to remind yourself that one often feel discouraged just before one's greatest breakthroughs.

5. Hypnosis
The power of suggestion to the sub-conscious mind can not be neglected. I believe it is an essential supplement to the thinking rider's mental toolkit.

6. Practice Gratitude
Be grateful for everything you have achieved so far, no matter how small and insignificant a goal it was. Get a gratitude attitude.

7. Goal setting
Your self-esteem, awareness, ability to communicate with horses and people, energy and happiness can all be amplified by your use of goal setting. This type of confidence-building takes time, although the sense of achievement when you reach that elusive star, is an instantaneous confidence booster. So aim for the moon, if you miss it you will still land amongst the stars.

8. Reframing
In reframing you choose what an event will mean to you and how you are going to respond to it emotionally. After a dressage test you can focus intentionally on what went well, instead of every little thing that went wrong. Usually we tend to maximise our blunders, even if they are by far in the minority. Often we are blind and deaf to our own successes.

9. Get rid of limiting beliefs
Most of us have very rigid ideas of who we are, what we can or can't do, what we do or don't believe about horses and riding, about instructors and farriers and vets. Very few of us are willing to adjust our beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Instead of changing our beliefs, we get even more entrenched in our comfort zone, and decide instead to find some one or something else to blame: our horse, for example. Or the weather, another rider, the course planner, the trainer, our instructor etc. etc.

10. Discover your learning style and stage
Your mental fitness determines how efficiently you learn; how easily you remember new information and master new skills. How effectively you can use your brain to achieve the goals you aim for is subject to your level of mental fitness.

Start your mental fitness program today. You get mentally fit in exactly the same way as you get fit physically. By exercising your mental muscles. Daily, preferably. Otherwise as often as you can find time. The fitter you are mentally, the more spectacular the increase in your confidence.

Dr Margarethe de Clermont is the author of the e-books "Ride with Supreme Self-Confidence" and "Tame Your Fear" and edits the Equestrian Magazine I want a Horse about how equestrians can earn a second income on the Internet. Find out more at Equestrian Life Coaching to receive your FREE e-courses and e-zine.

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