I recently gave a talk at Headley Heath Riders Association on ‘Sports Psychology Through the Eyes of an Equestrian Coach and Rider’. This well attended event was a great opportunity to share information and ideas on this important and often overlooked area. I was delighted to see a mix of competitors and leisure riders who were all keen to improve their outlook and performance with their horses and achieve their goals.
The talk gave an overview of why sports psychology is important to riders and what the fundamentals are and I talked about some of the tools available that delegates could use to help themselves and how they can benefit from further exploration and self analysis. I spoke about what makes a great rider or a great ride; encouraged everyone to think about themselves at their best and their worst and then how they can play to their strengths, motivate themselves and problem solve. I also explained some of the tools of sports psychology such as goal setting, mindsets and visualisation and looked at mental state, practicing under pressure, reviewing performances and coping with fear and anxiety or competition nerves.
“The level was spot on, and broad enough to encompass people who don’t /do compete. All of the points hit home for our group and everyone had a different point that really hit home” said one attendee, whilst another added “Just to say thanks for a fab talk yesterday, really interesting: we’ve been analysing everything today over a cuppa!”
I’m always keen to continue my own education too and so I’ve recently completed a three-day residential module with performance psychology specialists, Centre 10, that was the start of a six-month Applied Psychology for Equestrian Coaches (APEC) ‘Gold’ course. I chose to undertake APEC Gold as it develops equestrian coaches like me in applied performance psychology, using an accredited, scientifically-underpinned solution. This will enable me to enhance my psychology skills with my riders and help them improve their performance either at competition or in the school.