Tips for visualization: Equestrian style

Now, I’m not the strongest believer in this, but it’s been hammered over and over again in my head that positive visualization is a GOOD THING TO DO.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

Yeah yeah yeah I get it…So why does it feel so uncomfortable and awkward?

Why do I never think about doing it until someone reminds me?

I think it’s hard to do and awkward feeling because it feels forced, like you’re being asked to ‘imagine’ something without any boundaries of ‘what’ to imagine, or ‘where’ to imagine? We as adults, do not have that skill as easily as children anymore.

But, it is something I need to practice- like my knee exercises, which also feel kind of gross and uncomfortable, but something I do NEED to do.

So, where to begin? I felt like was bad at visualizing because I felt adrift…Like, what? How? If you let your mind go free, it usually starts thinking of all the BAD things that can happen- particularly riding. Falls, chips, long-spots, refusals, run-outs, ugly ugly ugly.

So, I thought long and hard about my recent jumping lessons (which obviously, since I’m going to the crossrail olympics, are excellent…)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

And voila! The hard part of visualizing positively started getting easier.

Here are my tips:

1. Make time. I make a point of visualizing while I am walking to work, takes me about 3-5 minutes during my 20 minute walk. My mind can ‘go blank’ for a bit during this.

2. Pick your most recent lesson and ‘see’ the course or gymnastic you were riding. See it in your mind, and go over it as if you are picking up the trot, transitioning (cleanly) to canter, and the heading to the first jump. ‘Ride’ each fence in your lesson in that course in your mind. ‘3, 2, 1, jump’ all the way to the final closing circle. You only need to do the 1 course per visualization session, because it’s kind of tiring for your mind.

3. Try to ride this course – from your most recent lesson- until your next lesson. Then you can ‘ride’ that course in your mind until the next lesson, and so on. I also try to think things like sitting up, elbows in, shoulders open while I ‘ride’ these in my mind.

4. Being repetitive really helps. By going over and over in my ‘minds-eye’ my most recent lesson, I can ‘see’ distances in my mind easier, and I have less ‘crash and burn’ visualization moments. It’s funny, but I actually found it quite difficult to even see my distances in my mind. When I thought about them I always got them wrong.

5. I even sort of make the motions of canter, jump, release while I’m walking and thinking. For me, it’s easier to be in motion while I’m thinking about the ride/visualizing, as it makes it a bit more active for me and feels more real and less forced/awkward.

Not that I’m an expert- I’ve only really started being more focused about making the effort for positive visualization when I realized I had a lot of ‘blank mind’ time while I was walking to work, so I might as well try to focus my ‘minds-eye’ a bit harder for a least 5 minutes of that walk!

And my jumping lesson (x-rails, yess) last night went very smoothly. So…It’s easy to get really discouraged and forget about visualization when you have a lousy lesson, or can’t stop running a loop of disasters in your mind, but ride those lesson that WORK in your mind, over and over.

Get fresh material without stressing your brain- use your lessons! They’re easy to think about (I think obsessively about them, so might as well use them as material for visualizing).

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