Recover, review, and reset!

That’s it! The eventing season is over. Here comes winter; riding by floodlight, cold toes, mud, endless clipping and spending twice as long rugging up…

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some riders will be giving their horses an easy few weeks and taking a well-deserved break. And, during this recovery time, the keen ones will be straight onto perusing the winter schedules of indoor eventing, equestrian balls and festive parties (did someone say sloe gin?), and training, training, training. But set aside before the winter competition campaign starts is hopefully some time to review. Now is a great time to reflect on your event season as a whole: the good, the bad, the ugly, and importantly, your lessons learned and action points; so that winter training plans can be hatched.

What to reflect on? – Some tips:

1. What went well?

  • What goals did you hit this year? What improvements were made? What are you proud of? What have you been complimented on? What has become a strength?
  • Answering these questions might be aided by reviewing competition records, logs and blogs, videos, or conversations with trusted friends and trainers. Do you notice any differences between the start and end of the season?
  • Consider the detail! A ‘bad’ result on paper doesn’t necessarily equate to a dissatisfactory performance. That is, there are likely to be improvements in your riding or the horse’s way of going to draw upon, wherever you finished on the scoreboard.
  • It may help to get to the detail by splitting your review into sections:
    • Mental: consider your confidence, motivation, focus, management of emotions, resilience, decision-making, goal-setting, planning.
    • Physical: think about your fitness levels, coordination, core-strength, posture, stamina, nutrition, hydration, rest; as well as your horse’s physicality.
    • Technical: reflect on your position, horse’s way of going, new dressage movements or jumping exercises/types of fence you have conquered.

2. What were your ingredients for success?

  • What skills and strategies did you use to achieve and maintain your list of ‘what went well’?
  • For example, maybe you worked on using visualisation to improve your confidence; joined a pilates class to improve your core-strength; or bought a portable skinny fence to improve your accuracy.
  • Why is this reflection vital? By recognising your methods to achievement, you’ll have knowledge of how to maintain what’s going well. Quite simply, without knowing your ingredients for success, you can’t replicate them!
  • Take a look at the skills and strategies you improved and benefitted from this season. Are they within your control? Hopefully you can say yes, and so enhance confidence in being able to maintain and grow your strengths even further.

3. What can be improved?

  • What training and performance areas didn’t go so well? Which goals didn’t you reach?
  • As with step-1, think about the different mental, physical, and technical aspects of your performances, and use records, logs, videos, and/or conversations to help you unpick previous events.

4. What factors hindered progress?

  • Having acknowledged your improvement areas, it’s helpful to identify why some of your plans or progress went awry. For instance, did your warm-up plan need changing; was focus lost; or did stamina ebb?
  • By pinpointing the factors that hindered your progress, you now have key areas to prioritise, set goals around (see step 5), and work on. This is what stops reflection being ‘dwelling’, and instead an opportunity to review, reset, and regain momentum in a helpful direction.

5. Set some winter goals!

With just 7 weeks until Christmas (!) we all know that the 2016 event season will be on us before we know it! The idea behind giving time to a detailed season review is that you can train smarter over the winter, with clear goals. Given the reflections you have made, think about your priorities over the next 4-5 months. Maybe there is a season improvement that you want to consolidate over the winter; and/or some action points that you want to make some specific goals around.

It’s often useful to work backwards from your endpoint when setting goals. So:

  • What do you want to set out to do in 2016?
    • e.g. Step up a level; improve dressage to average sub-35; team selection… 
  • What changes in mental/physical/technical areas do you want to see by next Spring? Look back at your season review: What strengths and areas for improvement do you want to enhance that will help you to progress?
    • e.g., Manage competition nerves better; develop core-strength; improve showjumping rhythm
  • Set specific goals. Consider the time-frame and resources that you’ll need; such as the people and support around you (e.g., coaching/professionals, friends), things you can do independently (e.g., reading, videos), and finances. Sometimes the goals will become more specific as you tap into various resources,
    • e.g., Contact a sport psychologist next week to devise a plan to manage my nerves (well, I would include this, wouldn’t I!); commit to one jumping lesson per fortnight and discuss with my trainer exercises to help jumping rhythm
  • Consider how you’ll monitor progression. Writing down and monitoring your goals is a great way to stay on track. You might also buddy up with a training partner to discuss goals and progress.

As a final thought…make the review process fun! Another perspective can be helpful, so have a good old chinwag about these reflection points on a hack. Even better, schedule a season review with a riding friend, trainer, or in a group, over a cuppa; allowing you to bounce ideas around and jot reflections and plans down on paper.

Let me know how you get on! What was your biggest achievement this season? Tweet me at @jdpsychology

For any riders who might be inspired by winter sport psychology coaching, Jo is running two courses in

Reigate Surrey. “The Winning Mindset” is a progressive course of five equestrian sport psychology JOworkshops beginning 11th November 2015. The ‘Holistic Rider – Core & Confidence’ six-week course entails both pilates and sport psychology for riders, starting January 2016. All details are on Jo’s event webpage:

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Jo Davies Sport Psychology is running two new courses designed specifically for riders this winter.