Clay, April Articles

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Analysis does have a dark side: it can lead to the “thinking too much” syndrome. Most riders have experienced this trap. Why does this happen? What can be done about it?

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I am not good enough - I don’t have an equitation body - I’m too nervous - I’m such a wimp. Have you ever tried to shame yourself into better riding with discouraging statements like these? Shame goes beyond garden variety negativity. The message you send yourself is: “I am useless” or “I am worthless,” and the implication is that there is something wrong with you as opposed to you having done something wrong.

Either way, an idle rider with an idle mind can be a dangerous thing. You risk losing your fitness, your sanity, or both. It’s not going to be okay to just stay home and wallow in your misfortune. It’s time to figure out how best to use this unexpected windfall of free time to your advantage.

It’s amazing how that same body that tingled at the opportunity to go for a ride this summer is now locked in a horizontal position on the couch. Inertia seems to have set in, and it may take some serious convincing to get some movement going again. What can you do?

April Clay, prepare for horse show, nervous for horse show

There you are, standing at the in-gate, trying to present a picture of poise and confidence. But the reality is that there are butterflies slam-dancing against the walls of your stomach. Right now you want nothing more than to just get this over with so you don’t have to feel this way ever again. Then some well-meaning bystander offers you a granule of wisdom. “Just relax!” she chirps. Don’t you just hate those two little words?

In any sport, it is crucial to know the amount of energy or intensity that is optimal to your performance. But equestrians can’t forget they’re part of a team, and our partners have their own preferences when it comes to energy.

What does it mean to “ride in the zone”? Most riders will say they have experienced it. Some would even say it’s the very reason they ride. It’s an effortless feeling when everything is going your way. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting that famous zone, or want to know how to get there more often, read on.

horse colic, horse death, equine death, april clay, dying horse, horse grief

When someone loses a family member or friend, often others rush in to see what they can do to lessen the pain. However, when your loss involves a companion of the four-legged variety, sometimes the response you receive is less than sympathetic.

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“My mind was a constant jumble of competing thoughts at shows,” says Amy, a junior dressage rider. “I would be trying to sort through them, just getting more and more nervous. But when I developed my guiding phrase it helped me immensely. I now repeat ‘enjoy and shine’ over and over as I warm up. It brings me back to my important things, which are to have fun and to show off the skills I have worked so hard to perfect. It really works for m

calm horse riding, level-headed horse riding, confident horse riding, horse rider breath control

In the sporting realm, keeping your cool means not being derailed by events that come between you and your goals. When such situations do arise, the cool rider takes things in stride, maintains composure, and looks for solutions. Self-control is essential to cool riders.

Ian Millar interview, horse rider Ian Millar, legendary Ian Millar, Ian Millar on horse riding, canadian legend

Then he was mine for forty-five minutes or so, way past my initially allotted ten minutes. Thankfully, it turns out Ian loved to talk about his mental game. I think everyone can learn something from what Canada’s most successful rider had to say about the psychology of his ride.

By April Clay, M.Ed., Registered Psychologist - Okay, so training means the obvious: attempting to learn, and scheduling time for that learning. This we all know very well. What is less familiar, less practiced, are elements that support and facilitate this learning

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What are mental traps? They are those little mental glitches you fall into again...and again. Here are some common traps and deep trenches that can lead you off your game.

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Just think positive! You have likely heard this familiar advice at some point in your riding career. There are mixed reviews on the effectiveness of affirmations. If they work so well, why are we not all wealthy or draped in first place ribbons?

horse riding performance preparation, pre-performance horse riding ritual, preparing for horse riding competition, horse rider psychology

There is a saying that best sums up getting ready for the competitive arena, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Preparation doesn’t just mean training your skills. Yes, you have to replicate what you learned to do at home, but there is more. A performance situation places different demands on the rider.

Riding is a relationship-based sport. You have a teammate who must somehow be made aware of your goals and develop a willingness to follow you. For beginners this is a given. For the rest of us, there is simply no excuse for not becoming well versed in the art of connection.

If you are like many riders, there are times when you wish you could relax on command. Of course, it’s very difficult to will yourself into a pleasant lull when you most need to. Fortunately, you can learn how to truly relax your body so you can “push the relax button” in times of stress. It just takes a little work.

Increase horse riding resilience, horse rider psychology, adjust horse riding perspective, horse rider mental toughness

Raiders who have never invested in their own mental training will cope as well as the next person. They possess “ordinary” skills that will assist them in coping to a certain level. On the other hand, those who train specifically to develop their toughness skills can become “extraordinary” in this area; it is very much a learned skill.

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There may come a time in your riding career when you find yourself saying: Why do I put myself through this? Why do I show? It usually arises when you’re under considerable stress, or after a cycle of disappointment. It can happen for many reasons, and when it does, it’s time to put the joy back into competing with your horse.

overcoming horse riding fear, fearful horse rider, understanding horse riding fear, horse rider physical fear, horse rider psychology

Riders, at some point in their careers, usually know physical fear. Reoccurrences of physical fear can be confusing and really interfere with your riding pleasure. Some even give up at that point, exhausted from the inner struggle. There are things you can do, skills you can learn, to get yourself back to all that fun you’ve been missing.

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