I hope you have enjoyed the blog on rider confidence so far! Here is the final part where we are going to look at relaxation and imagery skills. These skills are practiced regularly by top athletes and they can really help you be a confident and calm rider.
Brand Associate Nicola from Equestrian Fitness has made us an exclusive yoga flow video to help with your stretching and relaxing! Head over to the Boudica Facebook page to watch. You can also sign up to Nicola’s 5-day FREE yoga challenge on her website http://www.equestrianfitness.co.uk/
Don’t forget to enter our competition too! WIN: I’d love to hear your stories and your words of wisdom, maybe your favourite quote! Use #boudicaconfidence to keep us in the loop! The best story will win a prize from Boudica’s gorgeous range of rider and horse wear! 😊
Relaxation is a skill you can learn easily but it needs to be practiced. Getting on your horse and ‘trying’ to relax is usually futile unless you practice this regularly. I would recommend finding yourself a guided relaxation audio track that you can use at home and even when on your horse. There are a number of different styles of guided relaxation. I’m just going to focus on PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) for this blog.
Progressive muscle relaxation is one you may find particularly useful as a rider. It teaches you to relax all your muscles in turn and learn how they feel then tense and when relaxed. Start by trying to find 10mins every day in a calm quite place where you can practice. You may also want to try practicing the techniques once on board your horse but always have someone hold your horse at the time so you are safe.
Once you get used to this technique you’ll find you relax quicker and quicker when using it and wont need the audio track to guide you. Then at the show go through these techniques before and when you get on or at anytime you are feeling a bit tense. Use a ‘cue’ to remind you to relax. For example a special band in your horse’s mane that when you see it reminds you, or a sticker on your glove or perhaps every time you hear a horse neigh think ‘relax’!
Try this exercise: Close your eyes and imagine in front of you is your favourite meal. It could be a huge bowl of ice cream or pizza or maybe a big bar of chocolate! Imagine yourself eating it, what does it taste and smell like? Ok, so what has happened while you were imagining this? I expect your mouth has filled with saliva and your tummy may have even started rumbling.
This example shows us how powerful our mind is. Just by imagining something we can produce a host of physical reactions. Our brain can’t always tell the difference between reality and imaginary. Try this again but imagine something sad or scary, how does this effect your mood? It has probably been hugely influenced by your imagination. So if you imagination is this powerful then surely we can also use it to our advantage? Yes we can! This is where imagery comes in…..
Imagery is a great way to prepare for any physical exercise. Professional athletes use it in their training programmes and it has been proven to enhance muscle strength . You can use imagery to prepare yourself for a show or to help you learn new aids or movements in training but also to help with your relaxation. As with relaxation, you can get guided imagery audio tracks but you can also make up your own.
Jenni Winter of Flying Changes Coaching will soon be releasing a guided imagery track so make sure you follow her social media to hear more!
Find a nice quite place and follow these key points to create your own imagery which fits with your goals.
Decide on the situation you want to use in your imagery for example: feeling relaxed at a show. Try and make it as specific as possible so you may want to try: having relaxed hands when holding the reins.
Close your eyes and imagine you are at the show just waiting to enter the arena. What do you see? What colours pop out at you? What can you hear? What can you smell? Make the picture as real and as full as possible.
Imagine yourself feeling totally physically relaxed. How do your legs feel? How about your hands? What do they look like? How do your face and neck muscles feel? What about your shoulders and back? Use your practice in relaxation to help you remember the relaxed feelings in your body.
What thoughts are going through your head? Bring to mind calming and positive thoughts, ones that’d you’d like to have in your head.
Now imagine the horn/bell sounding, you stay relaxed and use your soft calm aids to move your horse forward. Your hands feel soft and your have a gentle and elastic contact.
Imagine yourself entering the arena and beginning your test. Looking ahead at the judges box as you trot down the centre line.
Keep this dialogue and visual imagery going slowly and calmly. Using all your senses to make the image as real as possible.
If you would like to boost your confidence further or look into these areas in more detail get in touch with either Jenni or Jane:
Jenni Winter of Flying Changes Coaching
Jane Bindley of Horse Riding Confidence Scotland
Some books for further reading:
The Chimp Paradox, great to help you understand anxiety and your brain’s makeup and drives.
Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride
Simple Steps to Riding Success
I really hope you have enjoyed this blog, i’ve really enjoyed writing it.