A Rider's Guide to Refocusing After Disaster Strikes

A Rider's Guide to Refocusing After Disaster Strikes

Have you ever been at a show or in a situation where you had to perform and then suddenly, out of the blue, disaster strikes? Perhaps the rider a few trips in front of you had a bad crash, or maybe one of your horses just injured himself back at the barn? On a few occasions, my clients have reached out to me asking for help as they had just got some very bad news whilst at a show. How do you stay focused under the most difficult of circumstances?

Here are a few ways for you to let go of all the thoughts racing through your mind and focus on the task at hand.

  • 1. Make a Decision

  • First of all, make the decision whether you are capable and willing to continue riding at this show or event. Only you can decide this – and it really depends on how important or bad the situation is and how you are coping emotionally. Just know that whatever your decision is, you aren’t weak for not riding, nor heartless for carrying on.

  • 2. Let It Go

  • If you decide to go ahead and ride, then you might still feel emotional and thoughts might be distracting you from riding. A very helpful tool I use and teach my clients a lot is called Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EMT. It’s an amazing way to let go of unhelpful thoughts and emotions and can be more powerful than a breathing exercise. If you are new to EFT, have a look online or read a book on the topic to get yourself familiar with it and try it a few times so you can use it when you need it. 

  • 3. Put It In a Box

  • Now that you have let go of the most distracting thoughts and emotions, imagine putting this emotional, hurtful, or distracting event into a beautiful, imaginary box (it’s your imaginary box, so yes, you can design it yourself if you like) or a safe vault. Imagine putting the lid on and wrapping some ribbons around or closing the vault door and locking it shut. Now that your problem is stowed away safely, you can really focus on the task at hand.

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    4. Get Into a Productive State of Mind

    When we are or have just been emotional, shaken, or upset, we tend to be in a very different mental and physiological state than when you are about to go and win a class, right? Just know that you always have the power to reframe your mindset.

    Follow these steps:

    1. Close your eyes and tune inwards.
    2. Now pick a moment that you were feeling really proud, grateful, or excited about something. Really step into this moment like you are there again. Feel what you felt then, see what you saw then.
    3. Let this proud, grateful, or excited feeling really fill you up. Now, let the feelings double in size and fill you up even more.
    4. Continue this process two more times.
    5. Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes feeling excited and ready to ride!


    All photos by Thomas Reiner.

    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