Day one wasn’t over once the last horse was untacked, though. We still had Coach Stewart’s
Everyone gathered at the tent that the auditors had been sitting under. Belmore very graciously provided lunch (linner? it was late by that point), so we settled in with food to eat and water to drink while we listened to Coach Stewart speak.
Here’s an overview of some of the stuff that Coach covered:
More on the Goldilocks Zone
Part of the fun of our sport is the challenge! The draw to live in your comfort zone is strong, but when you stay in your comfort zone you don’t learn, you plateau. Likewise, you don’t want to be in the danger zone. That leaves the Goldilocks Zone—having the right amount of success and the right amount of failure.
Mental Shifting vs. Mental Chunking
Coach also touched back on Mental Shifting (the ability to shift your focus from one thing to another) —and how, despite what he’d told us at the beginning of the day, Mental Shifting is actually a bad thing and we shouldn’t do it!
Instead we, as riders, should be doing what’s called Mental Chunking. Mental Chunking is the process of practicing a task so many times that four different steps become one. For example, when you’re first learning to put on a bridle you have to remember all of the different steps and pieces, but when you’ve chunked that information together it simply becomes “bridle the horse”.
Overloading & Push to Failure
The technique known as Overloading is when athletes intentionally make their training sessions harder so that the competition feels easy (for example, a runner that trains with ankle weights and then takes them off for the big race).
Part of Overloading is practicing the idea of Push to Failure. Like a man lifting weights, it’s important to push ourselves so hard that sometimes we fail—because mistakes are what make us stronger!
Ducking the Ducks & Quieting the Caveman
Coach told us the story of a high level competitor that was riding her cross country course when she was hit in the chest by a duck. Physically she was fine, but she was so shaken up that she withdrew from the competition!
Ducking the ducks is all about keeping your focus even when your brain is trying to psych itself out. Our brains are built to focus on the negatives. The survival mechanisms we’ve inherited from our ancestors know that focusing on trouble, problems, and danger is what keeps us safe, but it also makes it impossible to be happy in our happy place. It’s our job to silence that inner caveman.
Carthartic (Strategic) Laughter
Always laugh, even if you have to fake it. Children laugh more than adults, that’s part of why they’re happier. Laughter forces the body to release endorphins that can increase your happiness.
Athletic Anthems & Athletic Acronyms
Positive affirmation sentences aren’t as cool as positive affirmation songs! Musical motivation can pump us up, calm us down, and make us happier.
Athletic Acronyms are a form of Mental Chunking. They remind us of a bigger concept. (Example: BLAST – Breathe, laugh, and smile today.)
Finding a Flow State with Targeting & Cadences
A rider’s goal should be to always ride in their Goldilocks Zone. Part of that is getting your mind into a focused and positive Flow State (remember all those times I talked about doing a flow warmup with Ezhno and zoning out?).
The easiest way into a Flow State is through Targeting. Targeting is when an athlete focuses on rhythmical sounds (think sneakers hitting pavement, the whirring of a bike chain, or, even better, the hoofbeats of the perfect canter).
When there’s nothing to target (or you can’t hear the thing you usually target), you have the option of building a Cadence. A lot of us already use cadences in our riding (ever count the rhythm of you canter?), but being aware of cadences and how we use them can make this skill even stronger.
When we get nervous, we have a tendency to get small and closed off. Not helpful coming up to a jump! Make it a habit to get big instead by opening through your chest, straightening your spine, and lifting your chin.
Some final quotes from Coach Stewart’s seminar:
“Love of horse and sport is stronger than rears, tears, or fears.”
“We have to be better than other athletes because we can’t take it out on our equipment.”
“Your success is not determined by one class or clinic. There are no comebacks without setbacks.”
HOMEWORK: Building a Brand
- Find five or six athletic anthems. Take a look at the lyrics of your favorite songs to find a common theme between them, then use those songs to make a pre-ride playlist.
- Make an athletic acronym using five or fewer letters that you can use to boost your spirits in the saddle.
- Chunk all of them together with a common theme to make a “Brand”, then create a logo (something you can put in a saddle pad!) to represent that Brand.
- Think up a series of words that have a rhythm to them to make a Cadence.
Coach told us that tomorrow would be all about teamwork, then dismissed us for the day. We loaded up the horses and made the short trek back to Rainbow Meadow to tuck in the horses for the night. We took some down time in the shade of the trailer (despite my not so subtle suggestion that we go check out the cross country course—next time for sure!).
Once our motivation was back, we all squished into the truck and went to get poster board, markers, and letter stickers, then took our materials with us to dinner at the Rock. After a scrumptious meal (pulled pork, baby), we got started on our homework. Instructor A honed in on a theme of flying, tSB focused on climbing to the top, and I chose the idea of finding clarity in the saddle.
Looking at my poster now, I’m not 100% satisfied with what I came up with, but I do think this is an exercise I’ll do again in the future (possibly alongside a blog redesign???), and I’m still mulling over the stuff Coach Stewart covered in his seminar.