If you think equestrian sport psychology is just about relaxation and deep breathing and visualization, THINK AGAIN.
JANET’S APPROACH TO HELPING RIDERS IS DIFFERENT, AND HERE’S WHY:
Sport psychology is a lot more than just relaxation exercises, visualization, and positive thinking. Unfortunately, that’s all most people ever hear about, so when those strategies don’t work they feel stuck, with nowhere else to go.
My sport psychology approach differs from conventional sport psychology models, and has proved to be much more effective in helping riders manage the performance anxiety they experience at shows, clinics, or when riding other people’s horses. Instead of investing a lot of energy in trying to get rid of thoughts or feelings you don’t like, you learn how to ride well in spite of them. That way you’re not always looking over your shoulder to see if your nerves are catching up with you, and you don’t have to pretend to think or feel a certain way that you may not be thinking or feeling. By taking the “fight” out of anxiety management or your real fears of getting injured, and remaining very authentic and true to your real experience, you will be disempowering the anxiety you feel and empowering your own self.
From there, it’s easy to figure out how to compensate for the ways in which anxiety affects your riding. So, for example, if show nerves turn you into a passive, “second-guess-every-decision” kind of rider, then our job together will be discovering the best ways for you to quickly access and mobilize your more assertive, confident side. If show nerves turn your legs into a vice grip and your hands into steel, then our job becomes one of figuring out the thoughts or images that bring flexibility and softness into your body. These are things you can control. Making yourself “relax”—not so much.
Besides, who do you know who’s really relaxed at horse shows? The only ones I’ve ever known were the ones who got there by “accident”—they either were thrown into the ring on a strange horse at the last second or were riding under other unforeseen circumstances that made their expectations (and everyone else’s), well, soft. For the rest of us, once the outcome matters, everything changes, including and especially our anxiety levels. That’s just human nature. The funny thing about show nerves is that they’re only a problem if you think you shouldn’t be having them.