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Conquering The Mental Game

Here’s the thing. I find myself t0 be a competent rider. I’m no Beezie, Kent, Will, or any of those other fabulous riders that are always cool under pressure, because I want to get one thing out of the way right now. I’m 100000% not cool under pressure. Even if that pressure is making a decision of whether I want to wear side zips or front zips. So throw in a few fences, even a cross rail, and I have immediately lost all my ability to human.

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There was a time in my life where nothing fazed me. My best friend and I would gallop across undeveloped land, jump horses that shouldn’t jump over things we shouldn’t have jumped. I was a kid, and I was young and reckless. So reckless, that we often broke bones, fell off, and got into trouble. However, we got back on (cast and all) and we were off again. I didn’t care at what distance I got into a jump. I didn’t care if the horse had a bucking problem. I didn’t care how high the jump was. I got over it, and I was riding.

However, something clicked. I got older. I kept riding the harder rides, the young horses, and the difficult horses. I loved it, but I didn’t realize I was stepping right into a sinkhole of riding disaster. I began losing confidence, and it pretty much happened overnight. I lost my ability to think clearly, and I became one of the panicked.

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You see, I am not a natural rider. I don’t have natural grace or poise. I really had to work hard and hone in on the skills I have. I’m also an analytical rider. I think about every little thing I am told, even if I don’t do it. I want everything to be perfect, and I want to look absolutely perfect, even if that isn’t effective. It’s very hard for me to get out of my head, and it’s very hard for me to stop over thinking everything I do while riding.

I think as riders, getting out of our own head is one of the absolute hardest things to do. I know what to do. I know how to do it, but I can’t do it because I’m too busy thinking about how I am doing it wrong. Therefore, I chip, I add, or I take a hell of a flyer to a jump that I shouldn’t be thinking that hard about. It’s one of the most frustrating things, ever. I get so caught up in how good I could be or should be, rather than taking time to really mentally strategize and hype myself up a little bit.

Recently, I’ve been researching a lot about sports psychology and rider psychology. I’ve been reading about the mental game of riding, and I have also been reading stories about other riders struggle with the same thing. By suggestion of a friend, I found Tonya Johnston’s website. Tonya Johnston is a great equestrian mental skills coach, and she is highly regarded and used by many professionals. Even better, Tonya is a rider herself, so she really understands our struggles in the ring. She also has a great book out (that is currently shipping to my house) called Inside Your Ride.

I know that my mental game is going to be a constant struggle, but I hope that my willingness to help myself and, of course, with the help of Tonya’s book, I can overcome some of my mental obstacles. I’m on a journey to overcoming my mental obstacles, and I hope that I can help someone that might be going through the same thing. Maybe one day I will go from hot mess to “well thought out”. Until then, my journey continues.

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