Equivont Brand Ambassador Kerstyn Cornelsen shares the importance of having a positive mindset for riding and just life in general! Continue reading to learn Kerstyn's tips for overcoming negative thoughts and sustaining a positive mindset in and out of the saddle.
Have you ever been mid lesson with your trainer and he/she is instructing you on how to achieve something and your brain is jumping all over the place with thoughts such as “I can’t get my leg to do that.” “I should have practiced more before this lesson.” “He (my horse) is just not paying attention to me.” “I wish I could ride like (insert name).” “I hate when people watch me ride, I never ride well when others are watching.” And the list goes on…
I’m here to tell you that this self talk is completely normal. But it is also extremely unproductive for your riding and let’s face it, for your daily life as well. This self talk usually happens wherever you are, not just when you are in the saddle. It can start the minute you wake up in the morning and it can be the thing that keeps you up at night. Now, there is no quick fix for this mental spiral. It takes some work, self awareness and time but my hope is that I can give you a few tips to start on this journey to becoming a more mindful rider.
The first big step is being aware of your self talk. Most of us do not realize how much and/or how negative our self talk can be. This awareness is the foundation of improving your mental fitness in the saddle. As you go through your day, check in with yourself. What is your brain telling you and how often does it have a negative connotation? This is about awareness, try not to get down on yourself, just acknowledge those thoughts and move on. If you are someone who already has positive self talk, that’s awesome, you’re off to a great start.
When you are riding, there’s a million things to think about, try to be aware of where your thoughts are going and check in with yourself often. If you hear your thoughts start to become negative in any way, try and redirect to a positive version of that thought. For example, “I just can’t do it, my body will not cooperate” becomes “I can do this, sit tall and get organized.” When the negative thoughts creep in and you catch yourself, don’t be too hard on yourself—there is no scolding necessary to achieve a positive mindset. One of the biggest things that has helped me when I feel my thoughts snowballing down a hill is a phrase to snap me out of it. My phrase is “Let It Go.” (And no, I am not a huge Frozen fan) that phrase just wraps up any situation such as distractions, a bad dressage test, or a feeling of doubt. Find a phrase that works for you, maybe it’s “Let It Go” or “We’ve Got This” or “Just Keep Riding.” A phrase gives you a meditation moment so that you can let the world move around you and you can be at peace with where you are and breath into the next moment. I know that sounds etherial but I promise if you try it, you will feel what I mean.
The best learning opportunities are right after a mistake; take that moment to pause, figure out what you could do differently and do it over. No need to wallow in self pity or doubt when something goes wrong, that will not help you achieve anything. The top riders practice every day and keep pushing through the bits and pieces that aren’t quite right. They stay focused not defeated. My proudest moments as an instructor are not always in competition with blue ribbons but also when a student is practicing and they say to me “Hold on, I want to do that over.” I can see the wheels turning in a positive direction when they don’t get frustrated if something is not working; they analyze or ask for help and then try it again. Of course there are many variables that affect a ride; maybe your mare is in season, it’s really windy today or maybe you didn’t sleep well. You cannot control all the variables around you but you can control your mindset. Your mind is yours, no one can take that from you. Empower yourself, stay focused and do not become defeated with the journey.