What I’ve learned from coaching riders

By Annette Paterakis

I started of as a rider myself and then continued in the showjumping sport as a mental coach. I made that shift about five years ago and I have since learned so much from all the different clients I have had the pleasure of coaching over the years. So I thought I’d share with you the things I have learned from working with equestrian athletes so far.

1. We forget how far we have come

What I’ve noticed many of my clients have in common, and something I recognize in myself too, is that we are all ambitious and high achievers. This is a helpful and prevalent trait in athletes, however it can have a downside too. We tend to constantly set ambitious goals for ourselves and constantly look up to what we still need to achieve. Though there is of course nothing wrong with this, over time, only looking up can leave you feeling like it’s never good enough. Therefore, I started to include the following exercise into my life and share them with my clients as well. Every day, think about how far you have already come. How much has your life changed over the past ten years? Let the feeling of gratitude, pride and love fill you up!

2. It’s ok to be nervous

When I was still competing myself I used to get nervous and I remember thinking that the feeling of butterflies in my tummy was not a good thing. But over time I have learned that we really do need some “healthy” nerves to stay focused and responsive on the horse. So next time you feel your heart rate go up, don’t be alarmed, just work towards your ideal amount of adrenaline. If you want to learn how, have a look at this blog: “How to get into your zone”.


 ” Don’t forget to enjoy the ride! “


3. We all have our demons

We are all human, which means we all have good and bad experiences and we all have great strengths and some weaknesses. We also, including riders at the top of the sport, have moments where we doubt ourselves and think we are not good enough. If you ever have such thoughts, just know you are not alone and refocus on your strengths.

 4. Staying authentic is key

Over the years I have worked with several riders on finding their own unique self in the sport. Sometimes watching other people’s journey can leave us feeling that we need to do it like them or otherwise we won’t get there. However, everyone is different and so is our journey. When we are not aligned with our true self, our horses will pick up on it. The best way to stay in tune with your authentic self is to regularly check in with yourself and to trust and follow your own instinct and gut feel.

5. We forget to have fun

Again, being the ambitious athletes we are, we can sometimes be too serious and focused on all the things we still need to do. Along the way we can forget to have fun in our pursuit of perfection. Though, have you ever noticed how well you ride when you’re having fun? Exactly, so go out there, do the best you can, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

Photo: Nicola Pohl
Photo credit: Ashley Neuhof