While interviewing riders for my new book, I wanted to know what the most important habits and patterns were to become successful in the mentally challenging sport of show jumping. One of my favorite interviews, Daniel Deusser, is well known as one of the sport’s most natural and confident riders. Here, Daniel shares some practical lessons he’s learned and nine things that have helped him the most on his way to the top.
1. Prepare like a pro and then let it go.
When I asked Daniel how I could become the confident rider he is today, he kept coming back to the same concept. Train at home so you don’t need to be nervous at the show. “Of course, it also depends on the quality of your horse, but that you can’t control or change anymore when you’re in the ring. So, at home, focus on the process of improving your horse. Once you get to the show, you can’t change that much anymore, so just let it go and ride your best round possible.”
2. If you want to be better, train better.
If your results are not as good as you would like them to be, it doesn’t mean that you are not good enough. It just means you need to train better! Don’t take your results too personally. Learn from them what you can and then make a clear plan for how you can work on improvement at home.
3. Keep it simple.
Riding a big track can sometimes seem extremely complicated, but Daniel’s advice is to keep it simple. Think about what you ultimately need in the course. You need gas and you need a brake; you need to turn left and you need to turn right. Think about the basics, how does a horse move? For example, if your distance in a line gets too long, don’t use your spur to make your horse faster. Instead, make the stride bigger. Otherwise, you will have another problem after that since you got there on speed instead of stride.
4. Move up in small steps.
When I asked Daniel if he ever got nervous before a show, he mentioned that he (understandably) got quite nervous the first few big shows he went to. How he got over this was to rely on his training and to focus on moving up in small steps through classes or shows. For your own confidence and your horses’, make sure you set tiny steps of improvement, and focus just on those.
“If your results are not as good as you would like them to be, it doesn’t mean that YOU are not good enough. It just means you need to train better!”
5. Be on time.
An easy and important rule to make sure you stay relaxed and keep your cool during the show is to arrive on time. Make sure you have enough time before your class to rest, focus, and not arrive in a rush.
6. Focus on the relationship with your horse.
The bond you have with your horse is the most important thing you want to work on as a rider. “If you don’t have that strong connection, they will not want to work or fight for you. Make sure to build towards having respect for each other when training your horse. At the same time, make sure to keep them happy and let them be themselves as well. If they need to buck sometimes, let them buck if that keeps them confident and willing to fight for you.”
7. Observe and learn from the best.
Just like Lorenzo de Luca, Daniel, too, admits he loved standing at the warm-up when he was younger to watch the “famous” riders train their horses. Over the years, he learned so much just by watching or talking to them about how they schooled their horses or how they tackle particular issues.
8. Good horses can make a difference.
Even though this might not always be within your control, it is important to realize that the scope and carefulness of your horse do make a difference. If you train really well and work hard on improving rideability, you can still run short in the class. As a rider, it’s important to take that into account. When you’re not able to reach the goals you had hoped for, make sure to adjust your goals to the ability of your horse.
9. Just be you.
Don’t ever try to imitate someone else or try and ride like someone else. “Don’t try to do things just because Ludger or Markus is doing them. Make sure to focus on your own game; think for yourself,” Deusser says. In other words, you can learn from others, but don’t try to imitate them.
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 train like Daniel through deliberate practice and by focusing on the process, and how to really connect with your horses and enjoy the ride. Learn more about the program here: http://bit.ly/masteryourmindapp
Originally written for / photo credit: NoelleFloyd.com