After years of riding and competing, I still spend a ton of time ringside - now, I've traded in my helmet for a hat that says 'coach' (okay, I don't have the actual hat, but I wouldn't be opposed to it). I made the career shift to Mental Coach for competitive riders about five years ago, and I have since learned so much from all of the different clients that I've had the pleasure of coaching over the years. Every rider is different, but we're a special breed, and there are a few similarities that seem to ring true for equestrians of all walks. Whether an amateur at a small show or an Olympian hankering for some more hardware, I've learned so much from each of the equestrian athletes I've worked with.
Photo by Thomas Reiner
1. We forget how far we have come
What I’ve noticed many of my clients have in common, and something I recognize in myself too, is that we are all ambitious and high achievers. This is a helpful and prevalent trait in athletes, however, it can for sure have a downside. We tend to constantly set big goals for ourselves and always look to what we still need to achieve. Though there is of nothing wrong with goals (I see you #goalgetter), over time, only looking at what you have yet to achieve can leave you feeling like you’re never good enough. Therefore, I started to include the following exercise in my life and share it with my clients as well: every day, think about how far you have already come. How much has your life changed over the past five years? What about ten? Let the feeling of gratitude, pride and love fill you up - and fuel your riding.2. It’s ok to be nervous
When I was still competing, I used to get so nervous and I remember thinking that the feeling of butterflies in my stomach was something I needed to 'get over'. But over time, I've learned that we really do need a healthy level nerves to stay focused and responsive in the saddle. Next time you feel your heart rate go up, don’t be alarmed - even the best of the best get that kick of adrenaline before they enter the ring or set off on a daunting cross-country course. Instead, work towards channeling that adrenaline into positive nervous energy that you can use to your advantage, instead of letting it get in your head.3. We all have our demons
We are all human, which means we all have good and bad experiences and we all have strengths and weaknesses. It's just the way it is. We, including riders at the very top of the sport, also have moments where we doubt ourselves and think we are not good enough. If you ever have such thoughts, just know you are not alone and work refocus on your strengths. You're an athlete trying your best, and there is always next time. Learn from your mistakes, find the good in every experience, and continue on - you'll be crushing it before you know it.4. Staying authentic is key
Over the years, I have worked with several riders on finding their own unique self in the sport. Sometimes watching other people’s journey can leave us feeling that we need to do things like they do or we might not reach our goals. But you know what? Everyone is different and so are our journeys. When we are not aligned with our true selves, our horses will pick up on it. The best way to stay in tune with your authentic self is to regularly check in with yourself and to trust and follow your own instinct and gut feel. Being unique is awesome. Channel that.5. We forget to have fun
Being the ambitious athletes we are, it's easy to get overly serious and focused on all the things we still need to accomplish and perfect to be at the top of our game. Along the way, we can forget to have fun in our pursuit of perfection. Have you ever noticed how well you ride when you’re having fun? Riding horses is fun, exciting, and challenging - that's why most of us do it. Don't get too caught up in grind. Go out there, do the best you can, learn something each time you get in the saddle, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
Featured image by Shannon Brinkman
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