As Tony Robbins says, “If you want to become great in a certain area, make sure to model those who have already achieved it.” I am a firm believer that we have so much to learn from those at the top of the sport, so I have interviewed more than 15 top-level riders to learn from them, how they train, how they prepare mentally for competition, and how they bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Back in 2017 I had the privilege of interviewing Laura Kraut. She shared so many amazing insights with me and I want to share some of these with you now.
1. Connect with your horse
The first important lesson is about connection. Laura explains how she learned to really feel the horse beneath her. “We had to learn to ride our horses just with our seat, leg and our voice. We had many lessons where we weren’t allowed a bridle or even a halter. We had to teach them to go around like that and jump courses with poles. At the time, I didn’t think that was particularly helpful, but in hindsight, I think it was amazing because it helped me understand the movement of the horse underneath me and to be able to feel and read what my horse was thinking.” This ability to deeply connect with her horses turns out to be crucially important to Laura in the ring today as it directs her focus straight to what matters most, her horse and the course.
2. Train your brain
A second, very valuable skill in show jumping is to have a quick and calculating brain. Take a normal, six-stride line on course. “I calculate what to do in that line depending on how I come into it,” Laura explains. “When I’m in the air, I’m computing all the data and calculating all the information, so before I have even hit the ground, I know what to do.” This ability to think quickly and compute all the data around you is what psychologists refer to as ‘situational awareness’, and it is developed through a lot of practice over time. Training yourself with many different courses, even if it’s just over ground poles, can help you to create mental maps in your brain that help you become better at judging each situation on course.
“Everyone makes mistakes in this sport and everyone – even at the highest level – can and will make mistakes”
3. Shrug it off
When it comes to making mistakes and dealing with that in the most helpful way, Laura’s advice is priceless. “Everyone makes mistakes in this sport and everyone – even at the highest level – can and will make mistakes. I am no exception. When I make a mistake, I just shrug it off. Obviously, you are upset, but like the other night I had a mistake in the jump off and people try to make fun of me, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. I have seen Ludger [Beerbaum] do it, I have seen Nick [Skelton] do it, and I have seen Simon Delestre and Scott Brash do it. We all make mistakes but we have also done it right a thousand times before and we will probably do it right another thousand times.” Keep this lesson in mind, next time you miss a distance.
4. Stay in touch with your “why”
Show jumping is a sport that’s renowned for its ups and downs, many of them outside a rider’s ability to control. It made me wonder how Laura stays motivated to work so hard for years, knowing that even top riders like her, only win about 2% to 5% of the time. Her response makes me realize once again how important it is to remember your why. “I just love horses! When you experience set backs, like losing your top horse or something going wrong, you just start a new project. You just have to make your other horses better. You do what you have to do to get back up. Horses are my life, it’s what I do. For me, to work on a six-year-old that might not even be that promising, but just to get on it and try and make it a little bit better that day, that is an accomplishment.”
Now, take a minute to answer the following question: what is your ‘why’?
Want to learn even more from a top rider?
In my Master Your Mind Online Mental Training Program I have included the full, live audio recording of my one-on-one interview with McLain Ward – that’s 50 minutes of deep insights and life lessons from a true legend! In it, McLain opens up about his journey in the sport, his successes (and failures), and his own life-changing, mental strengthening journey, which has helped him win 30% more annually. In the program I will also guide you, through videos and step-by-step exercises, on how to become mentally tough, and how to really connect with your horses and enjoy the ride. And just like Laura, I will help you discover your ‘why’ and how you can create your own mission statement to live by every day. Learn more about the program: http://bit.ly/masteryourmindapp