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Developing that Big Match Temperament

INTRODUCING THE WINNING C-STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES

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INTRODUCING THE WINNING C-STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES

Concentration; Confidence; Control; Commitment; Composure; and Coping Strategies are widely thought to be some of the necessary mental qualities influencing physical success in most sports; and none-the-more-so in equestrian sports.

Becoming a successful rider means mastering the communication with a horse through the body.  As a result the behaviour, thoughts, and emotions both before and during competition can be transmitted though the rider’s body to the horse, influencing not only his/her own performance but also that of the horse’s. We introduce the C-strategies below as well as the techniques required to master these.

  • CONCENTRATION – maintaining focus and attention on some features of our environment, whilst excluding others. It employs, directs and controls ALL attention in the pursuit of a specific goal;
  • CONFIDENCE – a positive state of mind and belief in your ability to achieve your goals. It reflects a feeling of being in control. Self-confidence results in persevering even when things are not going to plan, showing enthusiasm, having a positive approach and taking your share of the responsibility in success and failure;
  • CONTROL – retaining emotional control in spite of distractions
  • COMMITMENT – perseverance and dedication towards pre-set goals;
  • COMPOSURE – a quality of calmness and an ability to organise thoughts and behaviour for a specific purpose without being fazed by surrounding activities;
  • COPING STRATEGIES – a purposeful and rationally planned program for contending with circumstances which would ordinarily lead to anxiety and stress

Psychology Skills Training aims to improve these mental skills and usually has three phases:

  1. Education phase – learning about the importance of psychological skills and how they affect performance
  2. Acquisition phase – learning about the strategies/techniques to improve the specific psychological skills
  3. Practice phase – developing psychological skills through repeated practice, simulations, and actual competition.

Developing techniques of GOAL-SETTING, PERFORMANCE ROUTINES, RELAXATION, CENTRING and VISUALISATION can facilitate achieving the “C’s”.

Concentration
Although the demand for concentration (sustained, short bursts or intense) varies with the sport, all disciplines of equestrian sport require intense and sustained concentration.  Common distractions are: anxiety, mistakes, weather, audience, negative thoughts, the horse’s form etc.

shutterstock_275185352SET YOURSELF SPECIFIC PROCESS GOALS FOR COMPETITIONS
Strategies to improve concentration are very personal. An example of a way to maintain focus is to set process GOALS for each competition or even each training session. There should be overall goals (e.g., to win a particular championship, or achieve a certain percentage) set out for which a number of process goals should be identified that help focus on specific aspects of the competition or training session (e.g., the preparation for a specific movement). For each of these goals a trigger word can be used (a word which instantly refocuses the riders concentration to the goal) e.g. if the horses self-carriage is a weakness the trigger word could be “uphill”.

DEVELOP ROUTINES AROUND COMPETITIONS
Another example to improve concentration is to develop pre-competition, competition and post competition ROUTINES. If these routines are appropriately structured and adhered to they can prove a useful aid to concentration.

shutterstock_196196585LEARN HOW TO CENTRE YOURSELF AT A COMPETITION
CENTERING is where you would direct your thoughts inward before warming up for your competition or shortly before entering the test, checking that your attention is focussed, or focussing on a specific aspect of the test.

Confidence
Generally it is not actual situations that directly affects confidence rather the thoughts, assumptions and expectations that build or destroy confidence
High self-confidence:

  • Thoughts – positive thoughts of success
  • Feelings – excited, anticipation, calm, elation, prepared
  • Focus – on self, on the training/competition
    Behaviour – give maximum effort and commitment, positive reaction to setbacks, open to learning, take responsibility for outcomes

Low self confidence

  • Thoughts – negative, defeat or failure, doubt
  • Feelings – tense, dread, fear
    Focus – on others, on less relevant factors (other competitors, conditions)
  • Behaviour – lack of effort, likely to give up, blame others , the horse or conditions for outcome

shutterstock_255343780USE IMAGERY OR VISUALISATION BEFORE AND DURING A COMPETITION TO IMPROVE CONFIDENCE

  • visualise previous good performance to remind yourself of the look and feel
  • imagine various scenarios in the ring and how you will cope with them
  • imagine (with great detail) riding the upcoming test visualising it without mistakes and “feeling” exactly how you manage your horses weaknesses and show off the highlights

shutterstock_209108905SET SHORT-TERM AND LONG-TERM GOALS
Confidence also grows by setting challenging yet realistic GOALS. If you can see are achieving your short term goals and moving towards your long term goals then confidence will grow.

Control
Being able to identify when you feel a particular emotion and understanding the reason for the feelings is an important stage to help gain emotional control. The ability to maintain control of emotions when things are not going as expected and remain positive is essential to successful performance. This is particularly true to riding as the horse can be a reactive and unpredictable partner! Two emotions that are often associated with poor performance are anxiety and anger. Both of these emotions will filter through the rider’s body to the horse, negatively effecting performance.
Anxiety can be physical (butterflies, sweating, nausea, needing the toilet, etc.) and mental (worry, negative thoughts, confusion, lack of concentration, etc.).

shutterstock_158212262DEVELOP RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
An example of a technique that can be used to reduce anxiety is RELAXATION. Anger and in particular, the cause of the anger often becomes the focus of attention. This then leads to a lack of concentration which causes performance to deteriorate and confidence in ability is lost which fuels the anger! RELAXATION and CENTERING can help to get emotions under control.

Commitment
Successful performance depends on being fully committed to numerous goals (training and competition) over many years. And commonly there are often also many other competing interests and commitments for e.g., work, studies, family/partner, friends, social life and other hobbies/sports. Commitment can be threatened by:

  •  a perceived lack of progress or improvement
  • not understanding the objectives of the training program
  • injury
  • lack of enjoyment
  • anxiety about performance – competition
  • boredom

shutterstock_70102189MAKE SURE THE GOALS YOU SET ARE REALISTIC AND ACHIEVABLE
Setting realistic and achievable GOALS can contribute to levels of commitment along with appropriate levels of support and positive feedback.

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