EWW welcomes Jane Pike, Jane is an Equestrian Mental Skills Coach at www.confidentrider.online. She specialises in giving riders the skills they need to ride with confidence and joy, and the mental fitness to be focused, on form and in the zone for competition.
How to regain your confidence after a bad experience or injury..
It’s more than a little frustrating when something that we have come to recognize as bringing us great joy and pleasure becomes a source of anxiety and apprehension. It might be that you took a tumble whilst going around the Cross Country course. Or maybe the injury wasn’t physical at all; something happened that gave you a fright and now the previous confidence you felt seems to have left the building. So how does that happen? How can one ride where things didn’t quite go to plan seemingly override the hundreds of others where we where we were the equestrian version of Captain Cool (or thereabouts!)?
However unwanted or unwelcome, our mind is always doing it’s utmost to keep us safe. Let’s look at this in the context of injury; whenever we experience a strong emotional reaction that is linked to a specific event the two essentially become interlinked or anchored to each other. For instance if you fell off at the water jump and felt significantly upset as a result, our mind makes the simple calculation that water jumps = injury and upset and should be avoided from this point forward.
In many cases, this cleverly designed function works to our advantage; it is a short cut mechanism to prevent us from repeating harmful or dangerous experiences unnecessarily. Regardless of the actual outcome of the experience, if you interpret the event as somehow threatening to your emotional or physical security, you will store that experience in the hard drive of your subconscious mind and scribbled all over it with colourful sharpie pens to make sure you can easily find it next time.
Now, think of the mind like a computer; in order for us to access specific files, we need to provide the right triggers. In this case, the water jump is the trigger for the file to be reopened, and as a consequence you experience a negative reaction- your mind is simply trying to prevent you reliving the same experience again. It has your best interest at heart! The more we think about what happened, the more opportunities our mind has to revisit the file and play the movie of your experience over and over again, which only further reinforces the emotions.
So how do we break the cycle? Here are three steps to take to help you process the fear and move through to the other side. We’ll use jumping as a general example.
1. Switch around the pain point
In the first instance, we need to switch things around and look to reprogram your association with jumping from one that is negative, to one that associates it with pleasure and fun. Instead of thinking about what it is costing you, or how “bad” it feels to jump, I want you to turn that on its head and think about what it is costing you not to jump. Get as emotional as you can. We want to switch the “pain point” around so go wild!
For example, not jumping might mean that you aren’t able to achieve the goals that you set out for yourself; that you rob yourself of an exciting and pleasurable experience with your horse; that you lose out on an activity that brings you infinite joy and pleasure.
Think about everything you are going to miss out on by not jumping and give yourself some leverage.
2. Create the future in advance
Next up, we want to create the future in advance. Take a few minutes and write out your vision for your ideal jumping round or training session. You don’t have to think too far ahead- this might just involve you happily popping over a couple of small jumps in the arena or equally see you competing at elite competition level.
Introduce as many of the senses are possible. What do you see in your mind’s eye? What’s going on around you? How do you feel as you go over the jumps? What are you saying to yourself? What is your internal dialogue as you successfully complete the rounds?
Once you have created a picture, live the scenario out in your imagination for a few minutes a day. Visualisation is one of the most powerful tools to affect subconscious change that we have at our disposal. Marinate in the vision you have created for yourself and begin to live a different jumping reality in your mind.
3. Set yourself up for success
Finally, work to incrementally increase your comfort zone. Look to bank a series of successful rides that you mind can draw confidence and reassurance from. There is no height requirement; start off with poles on the ground if you need too! Remember, your current situation is not a determinant of your future reality; you are just looking to put the stepping-stones in place to build up to jumping bigger heights.
Think of the point you are at now as point 0 and where you want to be is point 100. Between these two points are a myriad of others; what points could you introduce that would allow you to gradually build up your jumping confidence?
Recognise that feelings of discomfort will always be present when you are extending the parameters of your comfort zone; feelings of terror mean you have gone too far. Look to move forward only as far as you can easily step back. Over time, your comfort zone will begin to expand and your jumping confidence and capacity can only increase (or return) as a result.