By / 17th February, 2014 / Articles /

So which one are you?

1. Mindset coaching, isn’t that part of all that new age stuff? We never had that in my day and we did alright didn’t we? Who needs to be bothered with all that?

2. Mindset coaching sounds interesting, but I’m way too busy to take on something else.

3. Mindset coaching, been there, seen it, done it, gave up on it.

4. Mindset coaching, love it, use it and wouldn’t be without it.

So now if I told you that mindset coaching can improve your riding performance, your relationship with your horse and your outlook on life – would you believe me?

This article is all about the experience. Yes, the tangible ‘look at it on record – it actually happened’ reality of receiving mindset coaching.

When the Tanja Mitton clinic was announced at Tepon Equestrian Park I was eager to take part. It was not going to be easy, there were so many factors which could have seen me throw this opportunity into the ‘too hard basket’. It was a fair trek over to Tepon from Ocean Easy Stables and work commitments meant that I was unable to camp there the night before for the Thursday/Friday clinic. It was also the first regional official dressage competition of the season on the Saturday! Thankfully, Tanja lives in the real world and once I had explained that my late arrival and early departure by no means reflected on my willingness to participate or the value I placed on her professionalism, it was agreed that I would join the clinic as soon as humanly (or rather equinely) possible.

Our great FNQ weather was of course going to do its level best to test our positive thinking to the max: it was cold, wet and muddy. You couldn’t have planned a better environment to road test a mindset clinic.

Starting off the agenda was a theory session based on achievements: remembering and recognising YOUR achievements. This in theory can work for any part of your life, but it is easily taken to you and your horse and can make a huge difference to how you react in a given situation. I immediately thought, I may be a little late, cold and wet through but we (Spritz and APH Swish and I) arrived safely and the horses are comfortable in their warm weatherproof rugs and have settled well, so I’ve achieved. The warm welcome from Tanja and my fellow clinic buddies was super, I’m smiling – see it’s working already!

The second theory session was all about the anchoring technique: anchors can be used in a conscious way to trigger the same responses within your body as the positive (or negative) actual experience. Our brains are very complicated, but the brain doesn’t know the difference between doing the actual activity and remembering it, so this is an excellent tool to recreate exactly the same nerve cell response from your positive experience by placing finger and thumb together and ‘anchoring’ this moment in time.

It was then time to leave the classroom and test this out in the saddle. Armed with a selection of positive anchoring moments from previous rides with Spritz, Tanja showed me how to use my breathing to relax my position in the saddle to be more effective and connected to Spritz. When I managed to achieve this in our new surroundings, sure enough Spritz let go with a deep sigh. This was certainly something to be aware of in our warm-up routine, especially when we are out and about. Our anchors worked well too, a fantastic tool to bring you and your horse back to that great feeling for a special moment in time.

Tanja also showed a good eye for how the horses moved and used themselves, helping identify strengths and areas for improvement for both horse and rider. Non-riding participants were actively encouraged and my coach Kim Weston was also there to assess how the different techniques worked for us and how to integrate them into our regular Strategic Training sessions.

Day 2 and back into the classroom for a discussion on goal setting. I have always been an avid planner and find it difficult to comprehend life without a goal, or indeed a series of goals, but this session was great at looking at the bigger picture, emphasising a clear goal path and ensuring that there is a time frame attached to the goal framework.

Goals set and another session in the saddle, this time with APH Swish. Using the same breathing strategies and anchoring techniques our communication improved as Tanja encouraged a better rider position and understanding of horse biomechanics.

After our final saddle time it was time to depart the clinic to do battle with the red mud (why oh why did I fall for a horse with 4 white stockings?) and prepare for our first competition of the season with a promise to report back on our performance.

So, how did we do the following day? Yes, we achieved our goal – Spritz’s first medium level dressage test with me in the saddle goal 1 and Spritz’s highest medium test % of his career to date goal 2.

I can also report that we are certainly on track with all of the horses goal paths at Ocean Easy Stables.

As you have probably guessed I would certainly select no. 4: mindset coaching, love it, use it and wouldn’t be without it. It isn’t new age hippy stuff but based on science and research; it doesn’t take any more time out of an already busy day and there are so many helpful boosts from Tanja and your fellow clinic buddies to keep you on track.

Maybe you should give it a try too and see where your mind can take you?

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