Psychology

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Fall fairs, circuit championships, and club awards banquets signal the end of another horse show season. So how did it go? Did your shows, rodeos, or competitive trail rides meet your expectations? For the majority of horse owners, the answer to this question will likely be no. Stuff happens. And so we look toward the next year. But with chilly fall and winter weather looming, we all need some goals to motivate us to get off the couch and out to the arena on those cold nights!

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Have you ever felt like you’re getting in your own way? If so, you are not alone. As equestrians, we can be at particular risk of “self-sabotaging” when moving up a level in competition. This article will explore why this happens and what we can do to work against our tendency to make things harder for ourselves than they need to be. It is possible to tackle each new level with self-trust, confidence, and effective riding. All we need is the support of some mental skills and strategies.

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In January 2003, Penny Woodworth, who lives on Vancouver Island, BC, was taking a jumping lesson. “Smallish jumps, nothing exciting. My long-time error is looking down, which I did that day. My horse stopped, and I tumbled off. Not a bad fall at all, except that I landed with one butt-cheek on the ground pole. I got up and carried on, but I was crooked and stayed that way. After a week or so, still riding crooked and feeling shooting pains down my right leg, I went for physiotherapy. I had dislocated my sacroiliac (SI) joint. Regular physio treatments and exercises finally got it to stay in place and I continued riding.

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When you tack up your horse each day, what are you looking to accomplish? Regardless of your discipline, and whether you compete or not, I’m willing to bet that your goals are always related to learning. As riders we want to learn the physical, technical, and mental skills involved in partnering with a horse. We also work to help them learn the aids, manage their own bodies and nervous systems, and respond consistently and safely in a variety of circumstances. It all comes back to learning.

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This issue we will discuss the surprisingly controversial topic of movement. As I consider this subject, an experience from long ago springs to mind. I was invited to ride a dressage horse who was a bodywork client, actively competing in Young Riders and very expensive.

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For generations, riders and horse lovers have been enthralled by the mystique of horsemen (and women), but many struggle to define what a “horseman” actually is. Is a horseman someone with a laundry list of skills such as starting young horses, nailing on shoes, being knowledgeable about horse care, and having the ability to train horses to the highest levels? Or is a horseman someone who lives in the moment, has mastered their emotions, and understands a horse’s mind? Perhaps a horseman embraces all of these attributes; perhaps none.

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What are your personal values and why do they matter? Have you ever temporarily fallen out of love with riding? In my work as an equestrian mental performance coach, many clients share with me that they’ve lost the joy that riding used to give them. Sometimes the challenges of your sport can feel like they’re outnumbering the positives and equestrians can find themselves wondering: Why do I do this?

Annika McGivern, how to relax about horse riding, understanding my horse, angry at horse, hate my riding skills, equestrian psychologist, horse psychology

Do you enjoy feeling out of control? No? That doesn’t surprise me. Losing control is one of the most prevalent fears we experience as humans. At the root of this fear is the belief that if we are not able to control the present and the future, something terrible will happen.

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Pivoting for Lifelong Learning Opportunities - Riders often pursue the same horse sport for years, competing up and down the levels depending on their horse and how life unfolds. But some riders choose to change disciplines altogether — by choice, necessity, or because their horses want to do something different. It’s something riders at all ages and life stages may experience but the learning curve for a new sport can be steep. We interviewed three riders who are embracing new-to-them horse sports and meeting the challenges that brings.

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Are you a midlife novice horsewoman wondering about the ins and outs of having a horse? If so, this book can help. It’s clearly designed to answer questions for women who are finally living their dreams of riding or owning a horse — whether they’re new to the horse world or returning after a long absence.

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