ach weekend, in press conferences all over the world, members of the media ask the riders who’ve taken top honors the common questions: What’s next? What will you do now? How does this win feel for you?
Most of the answers are of the same variety. “We’ll get back to the grind tomorrow, there’s still a lot of work to do.” “This win means a lot, but I know there is still more to accomplish.”
Now think of the last time you had a breakthrough in your own riding. Maybe you finally won that blue ribbon (or, if you’re like me, any ribbon would do!), or you qualified for a championship. Perhaps your riding at home has improved to the point that you’re now tackling more challenging questions.
All of these moments have one thing in common: they’re a part of that elusive group of highs that are sprinkled throughout the natural ebb and flow of equestrian sport. Modesty tells us not to get too stuck on the highs. But Anne Kursinski has a different idea: she wants you to celebrate those highs, to drink that champagne! Here’s why:
Anne certainly needs no introduction. If you’ve partaken in Noëlle Floyd’s Equestrian Masterclass, you’ll have a deeper understanding of Anne’s thoughtfully curated mastery of the sport and all of its moving parts. And this philosophy comes from years of experience, from the ultimate highs to the crushing lows.
I asked Anne what she’d tell her younger self, knowing what she knows today. With five trips to the Olympics under her belt, she certainly has a healthy amount of perspective. And her biggest advice was to learn to enjoy the process.
“You get so used to that ‘it’s just another show’ mentality,” Anne explains. “Which is what we often need to think in order to perform our best. But I think I would have told myself to slow down and enjoy the process and the moment a bit more.”
Anne recalls the pressure she felt when she was trying to make the U.S. show jumping team for the Olympics in 1984. “There was a lot of pressure to go to [the Olympics in] Los Angeles, being from California,” she says. “We had Dr. Bob Rotella do a sport psychology session at Gladstone in the lead-up, and he reminded me that when I had won the Grand Prix of Rome, I was having fun. He said, ‘You’re not having fun now. You have all this stress and pressure to make the team.’”
Interested in taking this Masterclass from Anne? Click here.
Sitting there in that chair listening to Dr. Rotella, Anne felt the weight of the world fall from her shoulders. “After that, it changed everything,” she continues. “Even though I loved every experience, at the end of the day I needed to remind myself to have fun.”
Like most athletes, Anne is tough on herself. As she got older and gained more experience, she learned to let go of this stress to a higher degree. And doing this, she says, has an additional benefit of removing that pressure from the horse as well. In turn, this allows the horse to perform at a higher level.
After all, no one enters into a career riding horses professionally for anything but a love of the animal and the desire for a partnership. We could all use a reminder of this from time to time. The development process, which Anne takes so much pride in, leaves so much to be savored and enjoyed. In a sport where the highs don’t come around too often, learning to lean in and truly relish the process is important.
And it’s equally important to celebrate the successes we have, Anne says. “Often, I’d win big things and it would just be on to the next one,” she recalls. “I would tell myself to enjoy it. This is what you work so hard for! Sit back, enjoy it, and then start again.”
Photography by Erin Gilmore for NoelleFloyd.com