On a regular basis, I'm asked if there are any ways to memorize the course and ensure that you won’t forget it — even under the pressure of competition.
We've all been in that sticky situation on course: we land from a jump and suddenly forget which way to go. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you were having a great round until your mind drew a blank.
Follow these four steps to never forget your course again:
1. Clear Your Mind
The most important key to memorizing anything is to be calm and clear your mind. When you are nervous or doing a million things at the same time, there is a big chance your attention is too divided to memorize the course properly. Therefore, take a moment before the class and before you get on your horse to clear your mind. Go somewhere quiet to fully focus within yourself.
2. Prepare Your Body
Once alone and focused, turn your attention inward and ask yourself how you are feeling. In case you notice you are too nervous, make sure to take a few minutes for deep breathing. Or in case you are not alert enough, wake up your body with some jumping jacks.
Once you are in your zone and completely focused on what you would like to achieve, then take the time to visualize your course.
3. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize
Visualizing is basically forming a mental image of a certain situation. In this case, you want to create a clear image or video of your course. The more you use your senses, the more neural networks you activate. Imagine the crowd around, the music, the sound of the commentator announcing your name. Visualize the feeling of connecting with your horse, feeling the forward rhythm, and seeing the colorful jumps around you.
Now imagine how you are entering the arena, where you will stop your horse one more time, where you will pick up your canter, and how you proceed to jump number one. See it in your mind’s eye, as if you are already riding the course.
Visualize every single detail. How you want to ride the lines, the turns and how you keep that steady rhythm throughout the whole course. Also visualize how you are your most confident self, see your confident body posture, and feel how you are in control. Now repeat the whole course from coming into the arena to going out — three times! If it is a very difficult or technical course you can visualize it a few more times, but then let it go and trust yourself to ride this way.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
In order to improve your ability to memorize information, you need to be able to focus on one thing only. A great way to practice this is to pick one thing you want to focus on — your breath for example. Set a time and practice coming back to your focus point every time you get distracted. This way you train your ability to stay focused on one thing and let go of distraction quickly.
Another way to train yourself is to memorize your shopping list. Visualize how you will go through the aisles in the shop picking the things you need one by one. Just remember, if you want to get better, you have to train better!
Read this next: Before You Walk into the Show Ring, Do These Five Things
Photography by Sportfot.
Written by Annette Paterakis
Annette Paterakis - The Equestrian Mental Coach - specializes in mental coaching for riders of all levels. She is passionate about working with riders and trainers to help them better understand the mind and reach peak performance. Annette is the author of the book "Keep Calm and Enjoy The Ride", available through Amazon.com. For more information give her website a gander: annettepaterakis.com