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Plan your route and ride according to your plan


May 29, 2022

Ride the Pressure with Daniel Stewart: Plan Your Ride and Ride Your Plan

Photo USEA/Meagan DeLisle

This month, we’ll begin a summer series covering four mental preparation plans to help you build your confidence while loosening the hold that nervousness and fears have on you. The purpose of these plans is to give your brain something it craves: the perception of control. You see, when your brain feels in control, it allows you to control your emotions, but when that perception is suppressed, your brain perceives threat and stress… which lowers your confidence and heightens your nervousness and fears! This is when your emotions start to take control of you. In the end, you really only have two choices when it comes to riding, (1) controlling your emotions, or (2) letting your emotions control you…and that’s exactly what we’re going to spend on. been talking.

Even though the four planes work differently, they are all designed to help your brain feel the same sense of control, which they do by creating a series of predictable and repeatable pre-performance routines and/or pre-performance rituals. running that reduce the number of things that can go wrong, while helping you prepare for the ones that do happen. Remember, you can’t always predict when bad things will happen, but you can prepare…and your brain loves it (prepare = control)!

Before presenting the first plan, let’s talk about two common ingredients shared by the four:

  • Pre-performance routines: pre-defined actions that you will perform five days to five minutes before a major release.
  • Pre-Ride Rituals: Pre-set actions you’ll perform five minutes to five seconds before an important ride.

Runners never plan to fail, but sometimes they fail to plan and that’s where our first plan comes in. I like to call it the Plan Plan because that’s the plan that happens when everything goes according to plan! This is how you mentally prepare for an event where everything goes well and nothing goes wrong – no last-minute rain delays, pulled shoes, or refused loads. As you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s a great plan but doesn’t always happen (which is why there are three more!).

Here is an example of Plan Plan:

  • Five Days Ahead: Start a healthy diet and work on two skills your horse struggles with.
  • Four days before: Begin a light fitness (or yoga) program and continue to work on your horse’s skills.
  • Three days before: Start going to bed early and hydrating to be in top shape for the event.
  • Two days before: Decrease the intensity of your horse’s work and fill your trunk.
  • A Day Before: Give your horse a day off while creating a playlist of motivational music.
  • The night before: Watch a light movie to keep your spirits up.
  • Morning of: Wake up slowly with a few minutes of relaxing yoga and/or meditation.
  • Transportation: Listen to your motivational playlist while reminiscing about positive journeys from your past.
  • When you arrive: Put yourself in a good mood by showing your gratitude to at least three volunteers.
  • Montage: Give yourself a dose of confidence by sitting in a posture of power (think Superman).
  • Start of the warm-up: Let go of your worries by complimenting a few of your competitors.
  • Exit warm-up: Sit quietly for a few minutes while visualizing your ride (ride with confidence).
  • At the front door: Repeat a positive affirmation or mojo-mantra like, “I can do this, nothing to do.”
  • Enter the arena: take a deep breath, smile, pat your horse and say, “We get it.”

While I agree that this all sounds intensely TOC, if you repeat this plan in the same way before every major drive, you will begin to create a kind of predictable path to these events, which will ultimately satisfy your brain’s need for perception of the control- and let’s be honest, riders can be great control freaks. We would even control the weather if we could – but we can’t! The only thing you can control is yourself, so the best Plan packages just focus on things like your health (rested, fit, hydrated?), training your horse (peak at the right time?) and your spirit (excited, motivated, confident?).

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and are looking forward to the next three, slightly more unusual blueprints. Until then, I’m teaching my first Post-Covid Instructor Certification course next November in Naples, Florida. If you would like to join my team of coaches and start teaching Pressure Proof classes, seminars and/or clinics, just email me at [email protected] and I will send you more information!