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