Horse rider confidence strategies with Helen Rennie | Your Horse
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Horse rider confidence strategies with Helen Rennie | Your Horse

August 15, 2019

Good afternoon everyone as Rhi said, I’m
Helen Rennie I’m a rider psychology coach at my own business Rezone
Coaching, which I set up almost three years ago to the day
to focus on rider mindset now the equestrian world is not the only sport
I love but it is the sport I love working in the most and so that’s what I
do full time – working with riders very much like you. So in terms of just a
quick kind of overview of what I do effectively what I’m here to do is to
help riders control their thinking, how they’re feeling, which then impacts on
how they ride and effectively what I’m doing when I work with riders is
transforming their confidence and their focus so that what they can do is they
can be confident in any kind of situation
and adapt to any challenges and that ultimately has an impact on the kind of
results they achieve whether that’s in a competition, out hacking, in a lesson or
simply just working with their horse on their own at home. So I work one-to-one
with riders that’s most of the work I do is one-to-one and I do that over Skype –
the joys of technology! Skype, FaceTime WhatsApp, Facebook video call and also
the more traditional medium of phone and I work with riders from the ages of 12
to 74 at the moment and effectively what I what I do is work with riders across
the world because of technology I can work with riders in the UK, in Ireland
and working with riders in the US, Canada and Australia as well so that’s a little
bit about what I do in terms of the types of riders I work with it’s really
big range it ranges from riders who have had falls who want to get back to riding
the way they did before their accident to riders who simply want more
confidence want to feel more focused whether that’s at home or a competition
so that they can enjoy their horse because a lot of what we do is about
enjoyment it’s about fulfillment and yeah passion
I guess for the sport so today what I’m gonna do is talk you through some
confidence strategies kind of a whistle-stop tour – this is a massive subject
area so I’m just going to give you a flavour for this subject matter today and
as we go through this you may well identify with a little bit of what I say
or quite a lot of what I say so just invite you to come at this with
a really open mind so without further ado let’s talk about what psychology is
really all about in the context of riding it’s about getting riders
into the right state rather than them being in a right state so what do I mean
about being in the right state well my job is to get riders into a state where
they consistently can feel confident and focused
however when riders get into a right state they actually start to lose
control of what they’re thinking and feeling and they become actually unaware
of what’s going on as well all they can experience is just this horribly intense
moment of fear, of panic sometimes or simply just feeling like they can’t
ride anymore they’ve forgotten how to write so we’re
going to talk about why why that is today and I’m also going to share with
you a framework for understanding your mindset better as well
so let’s just talk about the confidence strategies then there’s a big list here
so you can see there’s quite a lot of different interventions that can be used
all of these before I read through them all of these are skills that you can
learn and anyone can learn them at any age as is proven by the fact I work with
riders across such a broad age range so the good news is is that even if you
don’t feel you have these skills or these tools at the moment they
are relatively straightforward to learn so you’ve got relaxation techniques and
these vary from the simple to the complex for being in the saddle you need
simple relaxation techniques positive focus and self-talk if you’ve ever felt
really confident about something you’ll generally be saying positive things to
yourself encouraging yourself focusing on what you need to do in that moment
however if you’re not feeling confident you’re feeling nervous typically you’ll
be saying negative things to yourself you might be criticizing yourself
beating yourself up and that’s not a great place to be in and so a lot of the
work I do is to help riders change that and then you’ve got self-belief
techniques self belief really underpins a lot of confidence and a lot of what
rider mindset is all about and if you have that strong foundation of self
belief you can really build sustainable confidence that’s you know makes you
more resilient and as we know in riding you know all of us have setbacks from
time to time and self belief just helps you be more resilient and bounce back
from those then you’ve got confidence triggers this can be anything from words
to music to a photo to a video it’s just something that triggers that feeling of
confidence when I work with riders I do a lot of work to find out what type of
trigger is right for them. Mental rehearsal and stress inoculation these
are skills that if you use really well you can trick your brain into thinking
that what you’re imagining is real and actually we do this a lot when you
visualize worst-case scenarios or you think about worst-case scenarios a lot
of the time you’re recreating the bad feeling that goes with that that is a
form of mental rehearsal it’s just not very good or positive form but positive
mental rehearsal and stress inoculation which is essentially a desensitization
process really useful tools and strategies then you’ve got routines and
rituals in a simple putting this simply all this means is this is the process
that you go through to feel calm and in control and some riders are not aware
of the things that they do to make themselves feel good other riders are
very aware but it can be simple things like the process you go through to tack
up the plan you have for competition all of those things are routines and rituals
and knowing which ones make you feel confident and calm and in control are
important and then finally you’ve got hypnosis you can do two forms
of hypnosis you can hypnotize yourself which I can teach you how to do that
or I can do a hypnosis for you this tends to be
the last type of strategy that I will go to often the other ones are the more
immediate more effective ones but sometimes this final strategy is a
really useful one to use. Okay so let’s talk about how you get to the place
of being able to use those strategies one of the key skills on top of all of
those skills that I’ve just covered is self-awareness because if you’re aware
of what’s going on and you start to become aware of the times when your
confidence starts to drop you start to question you start to doubt yourself you
start to feel the anxiety levels rise at the point you start to notice this stuff
that’s the time to intervene not at the point where you’re having a total
meltdown at the point of the total meltdown
recovery from that is possible it’s just not very quick and as we all know when
we’re riding things happen quite fast so you don’t want to be in a position where
you’re gonna have to take two or three minutes to calm down so self-awareness
is really important often I have riders that come and work with me who say I
don’t know if you can help me because I’ve no idea what’s going on and
thankfully because I work with riders full time there’s hardly ever a problem
that I haven’t come across before and so I just ask a series of questions and get
them to give me some ideas of what’s going on through specific questions and
that normally helps them develop self-awareness I’m gonna talk you
through a framework now to help you understand your mindset better because
you probably looked at that list of confidence strategies and thought hang
on a minute which one’s right for me where do I
start with this stuff because there’s so much on that list and each is a very
in-depth skill that you know you could spend a lot of time learning so I’m
gonna share with you a framework of five rider mindsets that I’ve created based
on my experience from working with riders but I find to be very effective
and the riders that I work with that I use this with absolutely love it because
they can identify really easily with what’s going on so as I talk you through
this mindset model you may identify with one you may
identify with a few or you may identify with all five but that’s okay because
what I’m gonna do is I’m also going to tell you as I talk you through the rider
mindsets which of the strategies would be most effective for that rider mindset
so you can start to think about how this stuff can help okay so let’s talk about
the first rider mindset this is the one which tends to be most associated with
complete meltdowns this is where a rider’s stress level gets so high that
they freeze, they stop riding, their legs turn to jelly and they go on to
autopilot they just feel like they can’t ride now this is because when you get to
this level of intense stress anxiety nerves the fight flight response in your
brain is the thing that works and the thing that’s not working is the part of
your brain that tells you how to ride and it’s an ancient response we have in
our brains your horses all have a fight flight response and unfortunately for us
our horses are extremely good at sensing when other animals fight flight
responses are active so this is not only bad for the rider but it’s bad for the
horse because both tend to end up in a very big anxiety vicious circle so
what’s the key to overcoming this well first of all identifying when you’re
starting to feel anxious is a good place to start because typically this is the
endpoint of a stress level that’s been increasing and increasing over time
occasionally this mindset can be triggered by the memory of a fall and it
can instantaneously create this response in which case I do work to help remove
that trigger but in all other cases it’s about having relaxation techniques and
just a simple technique is to breathe out slower than you breathe in so
breathe in for a count I always say two riders breathe in for a count of four
out for a count of seven that will automatically send a relaxation signal
to your brain and help switch off the fight flight response this rider mindset
I call stage fright because it is so intense so the next rider mindset I call
constant critic and this is really the mindset of self-doubt
it’s the one where riders will typically criticize themselves beat
themselves up focus on the negatives now this one is a key area where I would
work on self belief and positive focus and self talks so changing the way
you’re speaking to yourself the things you’re saying and also building self
belief is really key here to overcoming this negative cycle of negative focus
negative self-talk and belief and then the next rider mindset I call this
analysis paralysis this is where riders are just doing too much darn thinking
they’re thinking so much that they’re over riding often and their heads are
just too busy and when this happens unfortunately for us our stress level
automatically goes up the key to overcoming this is in the positive focus
and self-talk and in actually keeping things really simple because actually
our job as a rider is reasonably simple it’s just sometimes we get really caught
up in making sure everything goes right and lots and lots of different detail so
keeping things simple if you overthink managing your self-talk is really
important okay and then you’ve got a mindset which I come across an awful lot
with riders particularly those who have had a fall those riders who have a young
unpredictable horse who pretty much feel out of control in many scenarios because
there’s a lot of uncertainty with a young horse that’s maybe not gone and
done very much this is the mindset of what-if thinking
worst case scenario thinking I call this distraction attraction because generally
speaking your brains busy thinking about lots of different things it’s busy
thinking about the worst possible scenarios that could happen
it’s imagining spooking it’s imagining bucking falling off lots of different
scenarios and again you’re doing a lot of thinking when this when this happens
but your stress level is obviously increasing because you’re imagining all
these horrible things now for this mindset I normally use a blend of
different confident strategies so generally speaking it will come down to
self-talk positive focus I will also use mental rehearsal and
stress inoculation and I will normally also use some hypnosis some routines and
rituals because this is all effectively the way to cure this mindset is to give
the rider back a sense of control because often riders feel pretty
helpless when they’re in this mindset so that’s distraction attraction and
then the fifth and final rider mindset is one I call confident champion because
actually these riders on a day-to-day basis when they’re not putting
themselves under pressure are actually alright they’re doing okay they’re
feeling good about themselves they’re feeling pretty confident but as soon as
they put themselves under pressure particularly at competition
that’s when they will start to feel not necessarily anxious but they might feel
really stressed they might feel nervous and what tends to happen in this
situation is that riders put themselves under the kind of pressure that means
that they stop living in the moment now the problem with this is is that if
you’re not in the moment you can’t really focus all that well and and you
can’t really create the results you want just by thinking about winning or
thinking about being placed or thinking about producing a particular performance
you actually need to stay focused on one step at a time and often these riders
will only have goals that relate to the outcomes they want to achieve but the
best way to achieve your outcomes is actually to focus on the small steps
that you need to take to get there so it’s things like you know if you want to
jump double clear well first of all you you’ve got to have walked the course you know if
you’re an eventer you’ve got to walk the course you got to know where you’re
going you got to have warmed up well you’ve got to have got a good canter
you’ve got to focus on where you’re going one fence at a time that’s that’s
the job of the rider but actually these guys in this mindset will tend to focus
on just the result and they won’t stay in the moment and staying in the moment
is really important so if you identify with this mindset just be careful that
you make sure that you’ve got some goals that relate to the job you need to do
rather than just the outcomes that you want to achieve

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