Your mental preparation starts the moment you walk your course. It might seem like just another routine at the show and, after riding many horses at many shows, you might feel like you can get away with a quick browse or walk through the numbers. However, the better your preparation, the better your ride will be. Don’t leave anything to chance and prepare like a pro. Here are five tips to help you do just that.
1. Walk with confidence
Ever watched Kent Farrington, Scott Brash or Tiffany Foster walk the course? What do these top jockeys have in common? Do they walk like they are going to loose, or like they have already won? You guessed it. Their whole body posture translates relaxation, focus and confidence. Research shows that even when holding a confident body posture for just two minutes, the hormones you release change. Your “let’s kick some ass” hormone – testosterone – kicks in and your stress hormone Cortisol drops. So next time you walk the course, make sure to step into your most confident version of you first.
2. Memorize it like a story
Instead of walking just to memorize the numbers, walk your course like it is a story. Take in all the details, from how you will enter the arena, to where you will pick up the canter towards fence number one, to how you ride in between each fence, and finally jumping the last fence and exiting the arena.
“Pick a moment when you finalize your plan and then ride it exactly as you visualized it.”
3. Watch with purpose
Many of my clients have mentioned they get confused or start to doubt their plan when watching too many riders go around. Watching others fail or riding specific lines differently can throw you off track. So, if you recognize yourself in this, try only watching a few riders to keep you focused and confident.
4. Finalize the plan
When interviewing McLain Ward, he told me how important it is to be open minded, or in other words, have a certain amount of time to adjust your plan (when watching other riders for example). But he also explained it is as important to finalize your plan at some point, to avoid going in still not knowing how to ride that specific line for example. So pick a moment when you finalize your plan. Perhaps, straight after watching a few other riders or, like McLain, when getting back into the warm up arena.
5. Visualize x3
Now that you have a specific plan, you can visualize this plan as if it is a story in your mind. Ideally you repeat this visualization three times exactly how you would like to ride it. Aim to include as much detail as possible. What will you hear, what will you feel and what will you see? The more this mental video comes to life, the more powerful it is. Once you’ve gone through it three times, let it go and trust yourself: you will ride exactly as you imagined it!