Program Yourself to Improve Your Riding!

Hi Guys,

Do you want to know how to become a better rider without taking tons more lessons? Do what I did. By putting the same amount (or more!) of effort into mental training as into skill development, I was able to realize my dream of representing the United States in international competition.

Here's how it worked for me. Back in 1980 I picked up a book called, Psycho cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz. This book literally changed my life. I had always wanted to compete internationally, but felt that such a goal was an impossible dream for me. After all, I didn't own a horse. I didn't have any money to buy much less support one. I had only ridden through First Level and was pretty nervous when I did any showing. And although I was athletic, I was not a particularly gifted rider. Plus, I was in terrible physical condition. I was 25 pounds overweight and a three pack a day smoker! This was hardly the picture of a future United States Equestrian Team member.

Maltz' book taught me about the role that the subconscious mind plays in helping us to achieve our dreams. Maltz explains that, contrary to accepted belief, the conscious mind does not ultimately determine our actions. It's true that will power or iron-jawed determination can help you reach your goals for the short term. But to make a permanent changes in behavior, attitude, or skill, you need to direct your efforts to your subconscious mind.

This is because the subconscious mind functions, in part, as a goal striving mechanism. It is non-judgmental about the goal you give it. In other words, it doesn't care if the goal is a positive one or a negative one. It just needs a goal, and it’s just waiting for your instructions. And like a guided missile, the subconscious mind relentlessly moves you step by step closer to your goal.

So, for example, if you tell all your friends that you're a nervous wreck when you compete, your subconscious latches onto that statement as a goal and makes sure that you're a basket case when you show.

One of the cool things about the subconscious mind, however, is that it can't tell the difference between what is real and what is fiction. So if you repeatedly tell your friends that you love the challenge and excitement of competition (even if it's not true), your subconscious sees that as the goal instead. In time, you'll end up loving to compete. In fact, you won't be able to do otherwise because you've programmed your subconscious mind with this new goal.

How do you change your mental software so you can realize your dreams? There are two simple ways--through visualization and through self-talk.


Visualization or mental pictures are most effective when they are vivid. To make them vivid, fill in details by involving all of your senses and including emotion.

• Hear the rhythm of your horse's footfalls.

• Smell he clean air after a summer rain.

• Feel the weight of the reins in your hands.

• See your horse's markings and your clothing.

• Taste the salt from your sweat dripping down from underneath your protective headgear.

• Involve your emotions. Experience the sensation of being calm and poised as you enter the ring.


You can also program your subconscious mind by carefully choosing the words that come out of your mouth.

• State your goals in a positive way,

• State your goals in the present tense "as if" you already possess the qualities you want.

Say, "I love to compete" over and over. It doesn't matter if you're lying. Your subconscious can't tell. So just fake it til you make it. That's what I did.

I "saw" myself in great detail sitting on a horse that was wearing a saddle pad with the American flag proudly displayed in the lower back corners. I "felt" my horse's self-carriage throughout our Grand Prix ride. I "experienced" the pride of cantering down the centerline with the team patch sewn onto the pocket of my shadbelly coat. I "heard" the crowd roar their approval at the end of my ride.

I verbalized to anyone that would listen (and when no one was around, I told myself over and over) that I was a member of the United States Equestrian Team. Eventually, all that I saw and said came to pass.

It's so exciting once you realize that your life is a do-it-to-yourself project. You can design your future by changing your mental software. Program yourself to improve your actual riding skills (such as your position or how to ride a shoulder-in) as well as your level of enjoyment by choosing to banish fear, impatience, lack of self-confidence or anything else that's holding you back.

A Happy Horse

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Comment by Global Horse Source on June 6, 2009 at 8:08am
Wauw this is a great post,

I have to say that I'm very ambitious and determined. My dream is to become an international Grand Prix rider, and hopefully represent my country at some stage in my life. I cannot tell you, how inspiring it is to read this blog, as it makes that people believe and hold on to their dreams! Hopefully I will be able to fullfill these dreams, just as you did.............. Thank you very much!
Comment by Josephine Brouwer on April 29, 2009 at 11:51am
Great advice Jane! . very much like what I did in trying out for the 68 Pan AM Games on a tb, geld I purchased off the the track, whenever anyone said, I like your horse what is he I always replied this is my Pan Am Horse ,, we did not make the team but were 2nd in the trials. I am a firm believer in the Law Of Attraction!
Comment by Janet B on April 27, 2009 at 4:02pm
hi Jane, thanks for the refresher and update. I still have your article you wrote for Dressage Today in April 2001; Riding in your mind's eye. I have practised it many times and do believe!! A wonderful tool, and i have been practising the last 2 months as i have been ill and unable to ride. Janet
Comment by Jane Savoie on April 26, 2009 at 8:23pm
Awesome! You go, Girl!
Comment by Deborah Wilson on April 26, 2009 at 8:19pm
Well,this is exactly what I have been looking for .. a type of mental game to use to enforce,and direct myself in this world of horses.Although,I have always kind of directed my own a degree,and of course stumbling over a few heartaches along the way..its only in the past 2 years..since owning horses,having a potentially serious accident (with 2 of my horses),learning to
then overcome my intense fear (which has been accomplished)..and now I am riding.( school horse) I have found that
at 52,not in the best shape,about 40 pds overweight,that I keep asking myself..what exactly do I think I am doing? Have I lost my mind ? How do I change my direction....well,for starters reading your blog
has really been encouraging..and why not ? My immediate goal now,is to get my little pony up to the
mailbox...but my next goal,is to ride my horse Nairobi by the end of this summer...and post that photo
on this site.I am so glad I tapped into your Blog.Great advice and guidance ! Thank you Deborah
Comment by Joanne Kelly on April 25, 2009 at 4:25pm
That was fabulous. I will try these techniques not only for riding but for other aspects of my life. Thanks for sharing that with us.


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