Does Your Brain Let You Down?

A few weeks ago I did one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and did a ‘Live’ on Instagram. For someone who hates public speaking – Pilates is ok because I have a lesson plan and know exactly what I’m going to say – and is hopeless at thinking on the spot, this was a massive step.

Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. When I had the idea – yes it WAS my idea – it was always with a particular person in mind. If you haven’t already come across her, Nicky Pennie from Be Your Best Yet, is a fount of knowledge when it comes to all things ‘mental performance’ related. The reason for wanting to do a live chat came from a post I did a couple of months ago, in which I talked about using your competition photos and video footage for constructive feedback. This is because too often, we ‘perfect’ our riding at home and in lessons, but at competition things don’t quite go to plan – or even fall apart completely.

I had a good idea why this might happen from a physical perspective, but I knew that the mental aspect of performance was potentially a bigger factor. Thankfully, Nicky agreed to join me, and so a few weeks ago we went live and spent an hour – and actually we could have gone on for at least another half hour – talking about what physical and mental factor can influence performance.

From my standpoint there are several main areas to consider:

  • Clothing
  • Hydration/nutrition
  • Stamina
  • Adrenalin
  • The horse

All of these have an impact on how we move and think, some I have already covered, others perhaps I should come back to at a later date. But for now, I want to introduce you to Nicky’s approach.

Nicky has taught me that the subconscious mind is crucial to how we behave and perform. If we don’t train this part of our brain, when we compete it can dictate what happens. So if you don’t truly believe you can succeed, you won’t. Mindset is everything. One way to prepare yourself for this is by looking for 3 positives after every time you ride, and writing them down. This helps to reinforce positive beliefs in yourself, not negative ones.

We are both keen advocates of visualisation – for me it’s about how to use the body, and for Nicky it’s about how to use the brain. For example, it is a good idea to practice riding with success, and feeling calm, as opposed to imagining the worst and feeling anxious and tense.

Another area which I already employ if possible, is keeping your ‘prompts’ to a maximum of 3. This is because we can only remember this number successfully. Any more and we just get muddled, especially under pressure.

I think that the more I listen to Nicky, and read what she has to say, the more I appreciate just how important mindset and mental preparation are when it comes to riding, and in particular competing. Our bodies are nothing if the brain that controls them isn’t in charge. There is no point in me trying to add any more here because I absolutely cannot do this justice; I am only just beginning to understand this all myself, but I wanted to share the information with you so that you can also start to find out more. I would highly recommend you take a look at Be Your Best Yet – because you might just find at least 1 gem that helps you raise your game.

Take care,