Feedback & feedback Loops (1)
The time to feedback is at the end of a session or test, when you want to review what happened and how you can make improvements next time. Feedback loops are the responses you make to the feelings that you have about a situation. These may be positive or negative and we will look at this in more detail in the next article.
To maximise the benefit from feedback, you need to first have a set of goals against which you wish to measure your performance. For this reason I recommend a riding journal in which you jot down these goals for each competition and your feelings after each schooling session. It is important that you take time out as soon as possible after completing your test/session, preferably without first getting the views of your support team or the views/scores of the judge. Obviously you need to ensure your horse is safe and secure and comfortable first but then take a little time to review your session/test.
Firstly write down your feelings about the test/session, what was good, what could you have improved, what will you do differently next time. Then look at each goal that you have set and assess how well you did against those goals. Next, if you have a video you can watch, review your thoughts again with the added aid of the visual image- did it look like it felt? You may then want to review it with your friends/family/trainer - once again before you get the scores which may colour your views on your goal achievements.
Remember also to use positive words, look only at what you did and what you could improve, do not look at the problems, only what the solutions are for next time.
Barriers to Concentration (1)
In order to maintain your concentration it helps to understand situations which may challenge your ability to concentrate. The sooner a rider identifies potential threats then the sooner a plan can be formulated to refocus.
The first and biggest barrier is being intimidated by the opposition either actively or passively. The opponent may use verbal or non-verbal actions, bragging about their achievements, their level of training they have reached or perhaps their famous trainer. They may ride movements in the warm up at a much higher level than the test requires or ride in such a way that makes you change your course abruptly. If they are taking these actions or bragging then they are breaking their own concentration and not focusing on the task in hand.
Rather than becoming concerned about whether you have the ability to beat such people you should be excited that they are worried enough about your potential performance! If you are inclined to be intimidated by people you perceive to be better than you then you then you will be allowing yourself to lose concentration on the job in hand. In both of these situations you need to learn to ignore what is going on around you, a technique I call the Bubble that we will explore in a later article
Doing Your Best
As we are fast approaching the Summer Area Festivals and Regionals, I often ask clients what goals they have set themselves. Most have aware that they want their goals to be within their own control and achievable so I regularly hear the client say that they want to “Do their Best” or “Not let themselves Down”. Whilst this can form the foundations of a good set of goals, in itself it is not a positive goal. The main problem is that it is not measurable and it may not lead to improvement, at worst it may lead to frustration if the rider feels they do their best but their score is lower than they feel their “Best” deserves
The first step is to decide what elements make up your Best both in terms of preparation and performance. The rider who has failed to practice, has a late (alcohol fuelled!) evening the night before the competition, turns up leaving little time to warm up and spends most of their test time worrying about where they are going rather than riding their horse may perform to “their Best” given all the circumstances but not the best they could do if they have better goals.
So the goals would better if they included, plans for the final two weeks of practice/schooling; at least 7 hours sleep every night for the week before the major competition, avoiding over-eating or excess alcohol for the 3 nights before the show; learning the test so that they are very confident that they can perform the correct movements ; a plan for the warm up including maintaining focus by not comparing themselves to other rider/horse combinations, not chatting to their friends but knowing how much time they have until they will be called to the arena for their test; ensuring they remember to breath before every corner or transition and to smile! You will have your own important elements but these should give you some ideas.
That might sound like a lot of elements but by splitting them into goals for the preparation and goals for the day they will be manageable and measurable. Add them to your journal and ensure you carefully assess and record against each goal how well you performed -then you can truly say you Did your Best
Goal of the Month - Accepting Compliments
How do you react when you are paid a compliment? Next time you are paid one then note your reaction. Ensure you learn how to accept a compliment simply & without embarrassment- just say Thank You! Make sure your reaction is positive not negative- how often does someone compliment you & your reaction is "what? this old thing!". By effectively rejecting the compliment it makes the giver less inclined to offer one again. Rejecting compliments is a small indicator of fear of success, having to live up to being "that good". Allow yourself to succeed. Over the next month, try to pay someone a (genuine) compliment each day- see how often those compliments are repaid & allow yourself to enjoy them & be gracious in accepting them. It will also start to bring you into a more positive mind set. A friend of war correspondent Marie Colvin who was killed recently in Syria, recalled how he had paid Marie a huge compliment just weeks before she was killed- it is never to early to give a compliment but one day it maybe too late.
On this subject- avoid fishing for compliments- it can often be a sign of insecurity or low self esteem especially in a particular relationship Those who are needy never seem to get enough validation from others, and getting affirmation from someone you’ve had to psychologically beat over the head for a compliment is ultimately not very satisfying. Similarly, being in a relationship in which neither party is really very sure of how much they are regarded and approved of by the other is destined for eventual failure. The best course: be genuine in your regard for yourself and others. Offer compliments sincerely and freely. Accept compliments graciously. Avoid “fishing” and beware when someone else is setting the “bait.”
. And remember that failing to achieve a qualifying score in a dressage test does not make you a bad person!