I often mention keeping our horses minds healthy, happy and relaxed, but what about us? Most amateur riders are incredibly busy keeping home, work and horse going (scrap that, ALL riders are incredibly busy!). For those of you with children the job is made so much harder and the challenge is often just getting to ride once a week. There was a lot of information available around the new year regarding goal planning, but now a couple of months down the line I thought it might be a good time to consider how we keep our minds focused and healthy. Physical strength and health is vital but resilience and psychological well being are just as important, and in my opinion often over looked.
During my medical school years I suffered with anxiety, usually around exam times (which felt like it was most of the time), and I learnt to hide it from people. Only my nearest and dearest were often aware of how much the anxiety affected me, and it was when it started affecting my sleep that I really started to struggle. I am normally one of those infuriating people is asleep within ten seconds of their heads touching the pillow, but suddenly that was gone, and a sleepless night the day before a major exam resulted in a bit of a meltdown. I tackled the anxiety with horses (of course), and mindfulness meditation. Being able to clear your mind and draw your focus away from the whirling stresses in your head was what I needed to be able to control the anxiety. These days the anxiety is by no means gone, it rears its head every now and then, but it doesn’t surprise me anymore, and I know when it is getting out of control. The mindfulness techniques I used previously are very applicable when tackling dressage nerves or in fact nerves related to anything you do with your horse! I mention this because when I tell people about the struggle I have had with anxiety they seem surprised, and I think it is important to remember that sometimes everything is not as it seems on the outside.
When I look back over the goal planning I did in the new year, there’s a couple of things I perhaps should have considered.
- Recognise what you have already achieved
- There is so much that we achieve on a daily basis, no matter how small, but generally we tend not to spend enough time acknowledging these achievements and instead we just carry on looking for the next thing.
- Don’t just consider competition results
- Think about lessons learnt, physical skills you and your horse have gained, and how you managed when things didn’t go to plan. My new promise to myself is that I will find something positive in every training session, even when it feels like a disaster, and I will write it down. When I look back in a years time I will be able to track all the improvements we have made.
I love a good motivation quotation, so to finish here it is…
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but they don’t quit” – Conrad Hilton