As you probably know by now, I love learning from the best, and Peder Fredricson is definitely one of the best equestrians active today. So, eager to talk to the well-rounded, ever charming, eventer-turned-showjumper, I asked Peder about his journey in the sport, his learnings and, of course, his mental skills. As it turns out, he has a whole lot of insights to share with us in this area! I have summarized these into 5 steps you can also take right away to sharpen your mental skills.
1. Keep learning
I asked Peder if he ever worked on his mental skills, to which he replied, “All the time! When you are faced with pressure or difficulties, you have two options: you either give in, or you fight to find a new way, to learn new skills and to create a solution to your problem.” Peder does just that. By constantly learning and improving himself, he turns his weaknesses into strengths. By acknowledging what you still need to improve on and finding ways to do that, you can turn your weaknesses into strengths! Reading books is perhaps the easiest and sometimes the most effective way.
2. Work smart
Peder was working very hard, doing all the possible chores around the barn and he enjoyed it. However, when he signed the sponsorship deal with H&M, he felt pressure to create even better and more consistent results. He realized he had to make more time for the sport, and be more focused on how he was going to improve to get those desired results. So he hired people to do the things others could do to free up his time so he could instead focus on constantly analyzing how to further improve his game. Though we might not always have the money to hire people, where there is a will, there is a way! Prioritize working on the things that will really make the difference. Create a plan of action on how to improve further, find out what your biggest margin of improvement is, and start there.
“I always remember Winston Churchill’s saying, ‘Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.’”
3. Create routines
When you are at a show, and you have to make a thousand decisions from when to get on your horse to what to jump in the warm up, you waste a lot of valuable mental energy. Decision-making is a mental process that requires a lot of our metabolic resourses. In other words, your brain starts the day fresh and restored, but as we go through our day, and with every decision we need to make, the brain tires. So by the time you need to go into the ring, you have already decreased your ability to focus deeply. To prevent your brain from getting foggy when it needs to be at its sharpest, make sure to create routines you do every time you are at a show. By creating these habits, you save energy and you have less to think about so you can focus more on what really matters. Peder for example, always jumps the same amount of jumps in the warm up and always prepares the same way for each course walk.
4. Prepare mentally
One important routine for Peder is his course walk. He makes sure to have the course plan and to already study this before he even sets foot in the arena. He will take notes and with these notes he will walk the course with great focus, which means alone. When he is unsure of something, he will first try to make up his own mind before asking someone else. He will then prepare mentally by visualizing the course in great detail, using his body posture as if he is already riding the course exactly like he wants and repeats this 3 times. The more detailed you can visualize your course, the more it comes to life, and the more it will feel like you have already ridden the course before, making it easier for you to stay in the moment on the course.
5. Deal with failure like Churchill
When I asked Peder how he deals with failure and mistakes, his answer was simple and to the point, “I always remember Winston Churchill’s saying, ‘Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.’” Find your quote, picture or song that helps you to acknowledge your emotions, let go of the past and then refocus on the present and future.