10 habits of mentally tough riders

By Annette Paterakis

Ever wonder what mentally strong riders focus on, work on and do differently? These riders will work on the small yet significant habits that enable constant improvement and make the ride so much more enjoyable. Here are 10 habits that separate the mentally strong from the rest:

1. They are hungry to learn

Mentally tough riders want to keep learning. They are hungry to learn more about themselves, their horses and the game. They will therefore watch other riders constantly to improve their own and will ask their colleagues for advise on how they can improve their horses or resolve specific problems.

2. They are open minded

The mentally tough rider is open-minded, he knows he can learn from everyone and opens his eyes and mind for new opportunities to learn. Even (or especially) if something has not yet been done before. They think outside the box to get outside their comfort zone. As they know that that’s where growth happens.

3. They are 100% focused, the second they get on

Mentally strong riders know the power of focus and have made it a habit to always focus one hundred percent on their horse the moment they put a foot in the stirrup. They have learned to let go of all thoughts and distractions and always connect with their horse the minute they get on.

4. They let go of the outcome

Mentally tough riders are aware of the paradox of focusing on winning. They know the more they focus on winning, the less 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 that moment.

5. They work on improvement like a scientist

Mentally strong riders don’t take mistakes too personal. 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 and 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, chest, shoulders or arms.

7. They know aiming for perfection ruins their game

Empowered riders know that aiming for that perfect round can be counter productive as it might trigger the fear of failure and it’s therefore more likely to stand in the way of a perfect round. Mentally tough riders will focus on things they can control like, 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. They know the sport is a long-term game, so they built up the trust with their teammate and will never compromise that trust for riding at yet another big show.

9. They are in harmony with the present moment

Mentally strong riders not only know not to push their horses, but also that they can’t speed up the process. They know 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 towards 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 to 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 mean time, they enjoy the ride!

In case you would like to read more on how to enjoy the ride and learn how to improve your own mental habits, my new book is out now: “Keep Calm & Enjoy the Ride”. Email for more info.