THINK EQUESTRIAN - Equestrian  & Performance Coaching
Performance Coaching Tips
Charlotte DuJardin on the morning of her gold medal winning performance
Feedback & feedback loops  (2)
Your behaviour can be a trigger for others, for example if you draw back from someone when you are feeling defensive- this may trigger feelings of being ignored or neglected in the other person and tey then become irritated or hurt which influences how they react to you . This is known as a calibrated loop and these can be highly negative or beneficial (understanding calibrated loops  is vital to successful relationships both with your horse & with people).
Similarly your horse’s behaviour can trigger unconscious reactions in you which causes you to change your riding (perhaps becoming tighter in your seat) which then triggers a further response on and so on. I often hear riders say that their horses become tense when their horse hears the bell at a dressage test yet when I have rung a bell whilst the horse is being ridden at home there is no reaction- clearly a feedback loop starting with the rider reacting to the bell!

Another common scenario is the rider being inconsistent about their expectations which teaches the horse to ignore the rider. So you need to identify those loops that are limiting or ineffective and change the pattern, An example could be when the horse doesn’t obey your aid or instruction causing you to think that you are a poor rider, you become more tentative and absorbed in own negative thoughts and consequently less attentive to the horse. However many feedback loops are positive and effective and you need to know what those are so that you can repeat them and use them to help you change the negative loops. Write down what good reactions you get and why and see how you can use those in your problem areas.. 
 
(Claire Knowles on Pendragon of Independence)
Rider nutrition/hydration (1) 

Despite rumours to the contrary(! )riders are athletes who need to treat their bodies with respect and ensure that they are in a peak physical state to perform. The key areas to focus upon with regards to nutrition and hydration are; Fluid replacement; Muscle refuelling; repair and Immunity; Regeneration.
Starting with fluid replacement, water alone will support only 63% of fluid loss whilst sports drinks can take this figure up to 79%. The best policy is to avoid diuretics (particularly caffeine based drinks) such as any form of cola drink or coffee when exercising and to add electrolytes or a small amount of fruit juice & a pinch of salt to your water and take a drink at least every 15 minutes, more often in hot or humid conditions and particularly before exercise. Feeling thirsty is a poor indicator, by the time you reach this state you are already technically dehydrated. Lack of correct hydration reduces mental as well as physical performance- a dehydrated runner can reduce their speed by  6 seconds per mile.
Aim for a minimum of 2 litres of fluid every day, avoid more than 2 cups of tea or coffee a day, drink filtered water and diluted fruit juices no more than 1 unit of alcohol a day (7 units a week can be beneficial to the heart but avoid binge drinking so no more than 3 units if you are saving up your allowance) and  ensure you are well hydrated before starting any physical or mental exercise. The next article will focus on the optimum food intake to cover the other areas



 
Former RoR winner Cheryl Jackson
Streamline your life 

Streamlining and de-cluttering your life has many benefits and will leave you feeling energised, lighter (through not being weighed down) and open to new experiences. Start with physical clutter- identify what is no longer relevant or appropriate in your life and either sell it; give it away (try your local freegle site); donate it to charity or if it really is past hope then take it to the tip!  Then review anything else you have-does anything need fixing- then do it otherwise make sure it is organised so that your surroundings are not cluttered and that you do not waste time looking for things that should be in a certain place. It feels amazingly good once it is done-it may take some time so schedule at least a couple of hours a week until you are there.
Next get rid of that mental clutter- the information overload, being busy but getting nowhere and those aspirations/goals that are not truly valuable to you any longer. Write down two –three areas of your life where you are busiest. Why do these areas take up so much of your time-are they helping you to build the life you want? Write down what drags you down-habits, routines, negative thoughts and feelings, certain relationships. Take your time to do this and do not rush to solve the issues too quickly. Give yourself a couple of weeks after starting other elements of your streamlining process and then tackle one group of issues at a time. Each time you complete a streamline step –whether that be physical or mental or emotional then take a few moments to take stock of what the benefits are to you- savour them- even start a list of them so that when your resolve falters then you can re-read them and see how much progress you have made. And recognise that television and the internet are two of the biggest time-eaters and ensure that they too are giving you payback This might be sheer enjoyment and pleasure but if anything you are watching is not truly pleasurable or important then it has no place in your life.
Finally get rid of emotional clutter- why do we waste so much time on social obligations that do not give us pleasure? If you are doing something because you feel you should or because you feel you might be forgotten or excluded if you do not go then it may be time to re-evaluate your attitude and self belief. A sense of duty or guilt are unhealthy aspects of relationships- aim to create new routines for those relationships that you value and take control of the timing, duration and frequency of visits phone calls and emails. Let go of the need to be needed. This may best be done gradually but honour your feelings and check that you are not afraid to say no –anyone who genuinely appreciates you will accept that you need your own time and space. Choose carefully who and what you let into your life in future- life throws us many balls- choosing which balls to catch is the secret of a streamlined life and a clear mind and life is a better platform for a great performance in the areas that you value.

 

Christine Kershaw with Uri
Goal of the Month -
The Bubble 


The bubble is a technique you can try to help your focus and concentration particularly in a competition scenario. The idea is create a bubble around you and your horse, in many ways similar to the situation that you have driving a car. You are aware of the other riders and their horses, the same as you would be of other road users, but your interaction is very limited. When you are driving, you are making sure that you are not going to collide with  other vehicles but you do not worry because your car is less attractive than one that has just passed you and you are not endlessly comparing your driving to that of others on the road.
You need to create an imaginary bubble like being in a car around you and your horse and that can be best achieved by imagining a blue transparent shell around you. Blue is the best colour as it is calming and cool and is used in some hypnosis techniques. Only have the same communication from inside your bubble as you would in a car, you can acknowledge people but do not become involved in conversations or watch what they are doing. Keep focused on what the horse is doing and how he is reacting, assess what exercises he needs to improve his way of going and practise those elements of the test that you find the most difficult but also those that you find relatively simple.

By remaining in your bubble until after you have finished you will be able to put all of the techniques you have developed for good mental preparation into action. Start by practising this at home learn to be aware of what is around you but not to engage people or anything that usually distracts you. If you are audial in your work ie if it is noise that distracts you most then you might need to introduce a piece of music in your head that covers most of the other noises and that you can have playing while youa re riding both at home, in the warm up and in the test to help you stay within your bubble
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