We spend time working on our physical health, but what about our mental health? Dressage rider Olivia Towers offers four exercises to improve your mindset and help you get the most out of your riding.

Just like warming up to ride, climbing into the saddle with the right mindset will not only help you to make the most of your session, but it will improve your relationship with your horse too. Get into the correct riding mindset with these four simple exercises.

1 – Have a goal

Before I even get on my horse, I have an idea of what I would like to achieve. This, of course, varies depending on the level and stage the horse is at. For example, on a young horse, I may have the goal of wanting him to just enjoy the ride and go forwards around the outside of the arena. Sometimes having goals isn’t all about reaching them on a timescale (especially with horses), but they do give you and your horse direction and purpose.

2 – Self-talk

As riders we’re very good at painting a negative image of ourselves, but if you keep saying you’re a rubbish rider you’ll keep believing it. It’s all about how you phrase things — for example, instead of saying “I am absolutely useless at trot-canter transitions”, say “I would love to improve my trot-canter transitions, and I know it’s possible with the right help and patience.”

3 – Constructive criticism

It’s all well and good working on developing your self-belief and improving self-talk, but if you have someone who is tearing down those building blocks it’s going to be very hard. We can’t control all that is said to us, especially with the rise of the keyboard warriors on social media, but we can look at who we choose to listen to. Find people who tell you where you need to improve and when you are going off course, and do it in a constructive way.

4 – Go for good – not perfect

It’s rare in life that we go from day to day hitting 100%, and if you add horses into the mix, the likelihood is even less. Giving yourself room for mistakes is a huge part of learning and developing. Lowering the goalposts from day to day doesn’t mean lowering standards; it just saves you from the emotional rollercoaster and, in the long run, you progress in a much healthier way.

10 key takeaway notes

  1. Working on your riding mindset is as important as working on your physical riding.
  2. Before you get in the saddle, have in your mind what you want to achieve.
  3. Keep your goals achievable and break them down into sections to work through one at a time.
  4. Always finish on a good note to build your confidence.
  5. Don’t worry if you don’t achieve your goal in one session – a goal is something to be worked on continually.
  6. Talk to yourself about how you’d like your friends to speak to you – kindly and positively.
  7. Turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
  8. Only train with people who offer constructive criticism and build you up, not bring you down.
  9. Don’t take social media comments to heart.
  10. Go for good, not perfect, and keep a check on your perfectionism.

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