Tanja Mitton Australia’s No. 1 Equestrian Success and Mindset Coach
Tanja Mitton grew up in Germany with a passion for horses and show jumping. She worked and trained with a number of elite German and Austrian show jumping riders before meeting her husband Richard and moving to Australia in 1995.
While building her riding coaching business, Tanja was fascinated that many riders displayed a lack of confi dence and belief in their own ability. Tanja discovered a solution to this problem in her study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Now an NLP Master Coach and Practitioner, Tanja combines her unique riding instruction and NLP techniques to coach riders from Pony Club and Adult Riding to the elite level, helping the individual to identify and achieve goals by building a belief system that can support them.
If you are more interested in the science behind thoughts and feelings, I recommend the book Evolve Your Brain by Dr. Joe Dispenza D.C.(Doctor of Chiropractic).
Are you prepared to change in order to achieve your riding success?
Let’s face it, most people are afraid of change because generally it means that you have to go outside your comfort zone and for most people that is scarey.
So let’s have a look at your life. Do you get up every morning at about the same time and then go about your routine the same every day? For example drinking your tea or coffee out of the same favorite mug, then having the same kind of breakfast and then driving the same way to work? Do you have the same routine at work doing the same things day in and out and then when you come home at night, do you put on your same favourite slippers and those same comfortable track pants and then watch the same TV program and talk to your family about the same things?
Now I know that this seems a bit extreme, but do you get my hint?
So let’s go and have a look at your riding and the routines you have there.
Do you go and catch your horse with the same treat in one hand and the same head collar in the other? Do you open the paddock gate in the same way and then take your horse to the same tie up spot and start taking the rug off in the same way, followed by the same grooming and saddling routine? Now I can hear you say “of course I do that, it’s what I have been taught and this is the correct way of doing it. There isn’t any other way I can do this without doing it wrong.”
We are creatures of habit and even though there are a lot of different and correct ways of doing things, we like to keep them the same. I want to take this a bit further and now I want you to think about your thoughts. While you are doing your routine, and in many cases you don’t even have to think about that routine any more, what thoughts are going on in your mind? Are your thoughts the same every day too? And do they go something like this:
“I hope he is going to behave today”
“I wonder if the rabbit is still there at the top end of the arena and if my horse is going to remember it too and therefore start shying again.”
“I am dreading the moment when my instructor asks me for canter because I know already that I won’t be able to do it”
Or are your thoughts something like this:
“I wonder if I remembered to turn the lights of in the offi ce when I left”
“Is there enough in the fridge to make dinner tonight or do I have to go shopping fi rst?”
“How am I going to pay the bill from the feed barn before next week so my husband doesn’t find out how much these horses cost me to feed.”
Now routines can be a good thing when it comes to doing things correctly and thoroughly, like the tacking up and grooming routine. But it can be a negative thing when it comes to thought patterns that give you an outcome that you don’t want, like being distracted or focusing on things that can go wrong.
Firstly you have to become consciously aware of what it is that you are doing and whether it is serving you to get the outcome you want, or if it is holding you back. Part of my coaching is helping people become aware of their habits and often they are quite shocked when they realise what they have been doing to themselves.
So let’s take a pen and paper and start by writing down some of the routines you have developed. Then write next to it if this routine is serving you positively or negatively.
The ones that serve you in a positive way are the ones you want to keep. The ones that are having a negative impact are the ones that you need to change. In a coaching session I take people step by step through their thinking patterns and help them to understand how their thinking affects their riding and their horse’s behaviour. You might have heard me say before that I believe horses generally do exactly what we ask them to do. When we are distracted with other things they get distracted and focus on other things too, like the rabbit at the end of the arena or the cyclist who comes down the road. When we have negative and limiting thoughts, we get stressed and tense and our horses respond with resistance.
I have heard people call their horse their therapist before and I think they are right, horses refl ect the rider’s emotional state very well.
Now when you have found some of your thinking patterns that you need to change, look at words that you can replace them with. For example… Instead of thinking about the offi ce lights and the dinner, bring your attention inside the arena and as soon as you feel your thoughts wander off, physically stop until your thoughts are in the present time again. If you are focusing on things that can go wrong, physically stop and think about the actual outcome you want to achieve, like your horse being calm and relaxed and then match that thought with your own breathing. The breathing out that is.
The best thing about your horse being your therapist is that his/her feedback to you is always honest and fair.
So remember that it is the awareness that starts the process of change and then follow that up with re-focusing and your riding will go to a different level.