Here there be dragons...

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Sport Psyc

Again stolen from the Tamarack blog:

Today's theory was sport/horse-psyc... "When you're riding, you have to be a trainer, not a competitor". If you think this one through, it makes a lot of sense. Goes along w/ the whole "ride the horse you're sitting on" concept. And of course, it's absolutely true -- if you get on your horse saying "we absolutely have to do X now" there's no way it's going to happen. In fact, it's a pretty safe way to guarantee it won't happen. And I'd be willing to bet anybody who's ridden for any length of time in any discipline will have tried it at some point, and failed miserably. hahaha I can SEE you nodding :) Of course we know I have a rather vivid imagination *g* N yes I'm guilty too -- Zel drilled that into me far better than any other horse I've ever sat on. But I eventually listened... And learned...

Ok so it's not that you just never have a plan, but more that you stick w/ the training scale and if you don't make it TO your plan you accept that and work on what needs to be done. So in dressage, if the temp has dropped 10 deg and the wind has picked up and your horse is a *little* fresh (read: "running around like a giraffe on crack" - to borrow a $700 Pony phrase), it is perhaps *not* the appropriate time to introduce piaffe. hahaha That day (esp if you are NOT a fan of the go-gallop-your-horse-before-dressage school of training) you may very well spend the whole ride finding and installing his brain. Also known as step one of said scale: relaxation. Or in jumping when your horse has SUDDENLY REALIZED there are MONSTERS living under the 2' log that he's seen a million times b4, it is, perhaps, not the day to introduce ditches. Even though there's a ditch on the course you're running next wknd.

As competitors we get very focused on what needs to be done to win the next event, reach the next level, etc etc... But as trainers we need to focus on the horse as an athlete, and what does that athlete need to work on, or even is ABLE to work on, in any given day -- w/o the "I want" in there. The horse really couldn't care less that champs are in a week. Or that your upgrade is next Sat. He sees monsters today and that's that. It's only AFTER you get rid of the monsters that you can perhaps negotiate your way to the competitor's goals -- and the only way you'll do that is to put aside the competitor and bring in the trainer.

Then to follow along w/ that is the two ways of convincing your horse to do something: persuasion and coercion... We all aim for the first (obviously :) but it's all too give in to the 2nd... You WILL do it and you'll do it NOW! Which, admittedly, is *occasionally* required. But most of the time we slide into that mode almost w/o knowing it -- the leg gets a little stronger, the hands get busy, the mind starts going "would you just DO it." N once the mind kicks in you're toast. Cause then you'll be tense and try to force it, and once the horse feels that he'll be tense. N last time I checked tense was the opposite of relaxed... Which puts you BELOW step one. Not a good place to be to fix things. (see above competitor vs trainer paragraph :) hahaha

In most sports, training the athlete psyc is how to get "into-the-zone" or remain focused or push through the wall or whatever. Riding is the *only* sport that requires this level of mental agility. To both be determined, focused, and competitive enough to make it to the top (as required for all sports); and at the same time be able to entirely turn that off to train the horse (who most definitely is not determined, focused, or competitive -- except maybe about food!) to take you there. Can you imagine if the tennis racket suddenly decided to be afraid of the ball? Would make that sport a WHOLE lot more fun to watch. Or if the soccer ball decided it'd rather eat grass than go into the net? Or if the gymnast's bar decided it didn't want to stay straight? We'd have some VERY entertaining sports :) And, more importantly, how many of those athletes would be able to deal w/ it?

So that's an awful lot extrapolated from one sentence -- see I really DID get an English degree *g* -- but I know it's something I'm guilty of so I guess it struck home... Can't count how many times my coaches have told me "you KNOW how to ride, everything now is mental." Anyways -- this is the first one I've ridden w/ who attempts to train the mental aspect as much, if not more, than the physical. He just expects that the physical skills to be there. Which I guess is fair enough given the level of most of his students.


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