In­side Your Ride

Men­tal-•kill• in•pi­ra­tion from a leg­endary •how jumper

Practical Horseman - - Special Dressage Issue - By Tonya John­ston

Men­tal-skills coach Tonya John­ston and 1990 WEG gold medal­ist Eric Navet share in­sights into the way Eric ap­proaches the sport and how it has led to his suc­cess.

Tips and per­spec­tives from the best rid­ers on how to men­tally ap­proach equestrian sport are like pre­cious, unique gems—no two are the same and each one is valu­able. This past spring I was for­tu­nate enough to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the il­lus­tri­ous Eric Navet that was full of such no­table in­sights. Eric has had a long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer, in­clud­ing hav­ing been a team and in­di­vid­ual gold medal­ist at the World Equestrian Games, an Olympic medal­ist, Euro­pean cham­pion and French cham­pion on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions. As a bonus, our con­ver­sa­tion oc­curred at a horse show where I was com­pet­ing, and I found my­self think­ing back over these themes to pre­pare me for the ring.

Fo­cus on En­joy­ment

“When I was in the chang­ing horse fi­nal in the World Equestrian Games in Stock­holm in 1990, I was lucky enough to ride Gem Twist and Mil­ton—and they were horse le­gends of our sport,” Eric said. “What I wanted most was to en­joy the mo­ment. I didn’t want to waste that mo­ment due to the pres­sure or the fear of the re­sult. It was such a priv­i­lege to have a chance to show these horses, even if it was in front of 20,000 peo­ple. [I said], ‘I have done my job all week to get here in the fi­nal four, now it is time to en­joy.’ I think I won be­cause tak­ing it this way in my mind was all about en­joy­ing and I didn’t feel any pres­sure. I think that’s why I rode well and I think the horses were happy be­cause they didn’t feel any pres­sure from me. I was happy with the re­sult be­cause I got the gold, but maybe even more be­cause of the en­joy­ment that I had that day. Un­for­get­table.”

There will be sit­u­a­tions in which you and your horse are in a happy place. Whether it is at a cham­pi­onship or an im­por­tant show, a clinic with some­one you have looked up to for years or hack­ing out in an en­vi­ron­ment that is in­spir­ing to you, feel­ing grounded and aware of your en­joy­ment will bring pos­i­tive emo­tions to the fore­front. This will have a dou­ble ben­e­fit, as it is not only fun, but it will also help you ride bet­ter. One of the most re­li­able find­ings in sport psy­chol­ogy re­search is how of­ten joy is re­ported as be­ing part of an ath­lete’s ex­pe­ri­ence when she is in the zone, per­form­ing at the top of her abil­ity.

Ac­tion Step: Ei­ther be­fore get­ting on or when you first start walk­ing your horse, think of two or three rea­sons why you are go­ing to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­am­ple: “I have been work­ing out con­sis­tently and I am go­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate my strength in the tack to­day.”

Ac­tion Step: At a walk break dur­ing a ride, imag­ine you are your 12-year-old self. What would you be feel­ing? Ex­cited? Happy? En­er­gized? Let your­self ex­pe­ri­ence those emo­tions. Tap­ping into them will help you be present in the mo­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence a sense of fun and free­dom that will help you to ac­cess all of your skills.

Strive for Your Per­sonal Best

Later in our con­ver­sa­tion, Eric said, “I think the mis­take that some peo­ple usu­ally make is that they try to go faster than the other peo­ple [in the class]. That is not a good ap­proach in my opin­ion. The right ap­proach is to go as fast as you can with the horse that you are rid­ing. With this horse I can go this fast, with this horse I can turn there, etc.—so you must know [your horse] and then ride your horse. Don’t try to do bet­ter than the oth­ers, but do the best you can on your horse in the mo­ment. When it’s done, whether you win or you’re third or you’re fifth, you’ve done your job. It’s a com­pe­ti­tion about your­self and your horse, not so much the oth­ers.”

Striv­ing for your per­sonal best is an easy phi­los­o­phy to adopt away from the ring. But to main­tain that out­look in the heat of the mo­ment at a horse show, les­son or clinic takes true men­tal strength. Eric’s per­spec­tive is in­cred­i­bly use­ful in this re­gard be­cause it re­quires you to fo­cus on your own skills. By think­ing about what you are ca­pa­ble of as a team, you are mo­bi­liz­ing the very strengths you need to be suc­cess­ful.

Ac­tion Step: The morn­ing of a show or im­por­tant ride, make a quick bullet-point list of two or three abil­i­ties or skills that you and your horse will ac­cess to help you shine that day. Ex­am­ple: “My horse is brave and to­gether we fo­cus well for in­side turns.”

Ac­tion Step: Be­fore the ride, in­cor­po­rate process goals into your plan that are based on your men­tal and phys­i­cal skills. For ex­am­ple, a process goal could be to use your pre-ride rou­tine to get your­self fo­cused and in the mo­ment for your round or test. Not only will this help your rid­ing when you ac­com­plish it, you will also see progress in some­thing that is within your com­plete con­trol so that even if some­one else gets a higher score or is faster than you, you can go home feel­ing good about your ef­forts.

Eric Navet and the leg­endary Gem Twist at the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stock­holm, Swe­den

An equestrian men­tal-skills coach and A-cir­cuit com­peti­tor, Tonya John­ston has a mas­ter’s de­gree in sport psy­chol­ogy. Her book, In­side Your Ride: Men­tal Skills for Be­ing Happy and Suc­cess­ful with Your Horse is avail­able in pa­per­back or e-book edi­tions. For more info on Tonya’s work, go to www. TonyaJohn­ston. com.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.