The one thing I can say that all the elite athletes I work or have worked with, have in common, in a variety of sports is, confidence! Bundles of it! They whole heartedly believe in themselves, will not let any single person get in their way and move them out of the way if they do. ’No’ or ‘cant’ is just not an option and although many think they can be ‘right twats’ at times, you’ve got to be like that, to make it to the top! Im not saying the way to get there is to be an asshole, but what I am saying is that if you don’t have confidence, you definitely won’t get there!
I am fortunate that I am a confident person, and I think it is due to working with those world class athletes along with being confident myself, that I have realised how many riders lack that essential self belief! I firmly believe in the saying, ‘If you do not have confidence in yourself, how can anyone else?’ May I also add… ‘particularly your horse?’
From treating both horse and rider, spending time with each, through the biomechanics sessions and watching various lessons, I have seen that due to our sport relying on two athletes, the rider very easily blames the horse! It’s also sometimes coaches, at all levels, ‘pick him up a bit, he isn’t bending around your inside leg, he’s not balanced between transitions.’ Its always he or she, why cant it be, ‘you need to pick your hands up a little, and lift your upper body, you are not using your inside leg enough’ etc… I was so pleased to sit in on some of international dressage rider and judge, Peter Storr’s sessions recently, the difference from start to finish was incredible, and one of the riders just couldn’t believe the transformation when he told her to do this that and the other, minor tweaks but ones that made a huge difference to the overall picture.
Of course horses have their negatives, but so do we as riders, and one could argue more than a horse. So unfortunately many of the riders that have had the biomechanics sessions have had me focussing on both, whether it is liked or not. There is one rider who I thought Il either get kicked out of this arena or I will be hailed a hero, luckily it was the latter, but I think it took a little while for them to accept the fact, after the marked improvement, that actually a large part of their problems was themselves!
Riding is a sport, and with a sport you have to train if you want to compete. Rugby players go to the gym and do pilates, Tom Daley does ballet and circuit training. So my point being, you need to do other things than just ride! Yes you can really only getting ‘riding fit’ by riding, but the sport is thankfully changing, and riders are also realising that even a fancy new horse wont necessarily get you there. Yes horse power plays a large role in our sport, that can affect confidence greatly, but I always believe ‘hard work out weighs talent, if talent doesn’t put in the hard work.’
At what ever level you are at, if you are wanting to be competitive, then you need to make sure before you set foot in that arena, that you have done the best you can in regards to preparation. I feel that really is the first essential step for confidence, being as well prepared as you can be, and sometimes that means thinking out of the box! If you are huffing and puffing as you get out of the ring after one course, or one test, get your trainers on and get doing some interval training and aerobic exercise. if you are always ‘dropping’ one hip and lifting one shoulder, have yourself looked at. The amount of clients that finally realise why they have been screamed at for so many years, just by me doing a few simple exercises with them and treating them is incredible!
Next step – self confidence!
People with greater self esteem usually have greater self confidence so if you have some unsolved weaknesses, they make you unconfident, thus they make the horse unconfident and eventually the horse will start going in a way to compensate for this. If you know you have worked as hard as you can to help yourself and your horse, then that is half the battle to confidence. If you don’t think your going to win it, its more than likely you won’t. So I thought some of the best people to ask on this subject, were a double olympic medalist, Astier Nicolas, professional dressage rider Laura Wollen and show jumper Harry Bateman.
Top riders thoughts:
Astier Nicolas – ‘You need to want to win enough, and trust yourself and your horse’.
Laura Wollen – ‘I had a real awakening at the nationals this year. I am normally a super prepared, cool customer, but at the nationals because I didn’t have any hands on the ground in the morning and cutting it tight on time, I got very uncharacteristically stressed. I normally always give myself ample time to get ready, arena walk, primp the pony, sit in the lorry for 10 minutes to get in a zone and think about my test, but I just had no time. The second I got in the arena the horse could tell, and I made silly mistakes, so I will never let that situation occur again’.
Harry Bateman – ‘Good preparation, at home and in the warm up. Confidence bounces between horse and rider!’
Laura still pulled off 67% in the medium gold so I am sure it wasn’t that terrible, but it shows what ill preparation can do to your confidence! What ever your routine or technique is, have something that makes you feel confident and therefore your horse feel confident. Its always about setting realistic goals at home and implementing them just as much there as you would want to at a show. At an event it can be having someone on the sideline, self talk or visualisation. Studies in mental imagery have shown that the brain cannot distinguish from a real or an imaginary picture. The same chemicals release and the same electrical activity displays in the brain whether we are visualising something or actually doing it. A repeated thought, or feeling, can actually become a belief over time. Have you ever been constantly thinking about a particular outcome in a positive sense that you actually felt good about it?
What I mean is that you can actually train your mind to be confident. So I use visualisation, when I used to ride competitively I ran with really pumped up music and imagined myself winning my next event. My lap of honour, my rosette everything, again to the point that I thoroughly believed before I went in that arena that I would win.
Confidence doesn’t happen overnight but with time and techniques it will come, so before you get riding at home tomorrow, have a play with different techniques and see what works well for you. I’d be really intrigued to hear about what you have found works for you. So please do email me with them.
But always remember one crucial thing, enjoy it!!!!
Good luck everyone, Dee xx