Ever wonder what mentally strong riders do that’s different from the rest of us? These athletes will work on the small yet significant habits that on the surface, enable constant improvement, but actually also make the ride so much more enjoyable. Want in? Of course you do!
So, what separates the mentally strong from the rest of the pack?
1. They are hungry to learn.
Mentally tough riders want to keep learning. They are hungry to understand more about themselves, their horses, and the game. They will, therefore, watch other riders constantly to improve their own performance and will ask their colleagues for advice on how they can better their horses or resolve specific problems.
2. They are open-minded.
The mentally tough rider is also open-minded. He knows he can learn from everyone and opens his eyes and his mind to new opportunities, even and especially if something has not yet been done before. These athletes think outside the box to get outside their comfort zone. Because, as they know, that that’s where growth happens.
3. They are 100 percent focused, the second they get on.
Mentally strong riders know the power of focus and make it a habit to always focus 100 percent on their horse from the moment they put a foot in the stirrup. They have learned to let go of all thoughts and distractions and to always think about connection with their horses when they’re in the saddle.
4. They let go of the outcome.
Mentally tough riders are aware of the paradox of focusing on winning. They know the more that they do, the less their chance of achieving the desired results. Instead, they manage their motivation to win by focusing on the process, their preparation, their horses, and being in the moment.
5. They work on improvement like a scientist.
Mentally strong riders don’t take mistakes too personally. They might feel bad for a short while, but will let the emotions go quickly in order to determine what they can learn from the situation. Once they have found what they can still improve upon, they will make a detailed plan to do just that.
6. They are aware.
Mentally strong riders are aware of their body and their mind. They will notice when tension enters their body and they know how to let go of it. They are also aware of their thoughts are able to direct their attention back into their ‘zone’. Try it yourself by tuning into your body just before your warm-up. Scan your body and notice if there is any tension building in your neck, your chest, shoulders or arms.
7. They know ‘perfection’ is counter-productive.
Empowered riders know that aiming for that perfect round can be counter-productive, as it can trigger the fear of failure and is therefore more likely to stand in the way of a strong performance. Mentally tough riders will instead focus on things they can control: their focus, rhythm, position on the horse, or their course plan.
8. They will never push their horses beyond what’s possible.
Even though they push themselves outside their comfort zone, they know never to push their horses beyond what they can do at that moment. These riders understand that the sport is a long-term game, so they build up the trust with their teammate and will never compromise that trust for a single class or result.
9. They are in harmony with the present moment.
Mentally strong riders not only know not to push their horses, they know that they can’t speed up the process. They understand they have to work for the results, and that success takes time. Instead of feeling frustrated about things not working out or not working out fast enough, they have faith in their journey and the patience to stay in the present moment.
10. They enjoy the ride.
Tough riders work extremely hard toward their goals, yet, they feel grateful for what they have accomplished and are able to enjoy the process. They know not to dwell on the past or get frustrated by the things they have not yet achieved, as it will ruin their motivation in the long run. Instead, they count their blessings and remain focused on what they want to accomplish and how they will get there. In the meantime, they enjoy the ride!
Photos by Kate Kosnoff
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