Brain Training for Riders
By Andrea Monsarrat Waldo.
"I am so glad a book on coping with riding nerves has been published. So many riders give up riding, or suffer terribly before competitions because of being afraid. This book helps tame those fears and shows riders how to work through those problems. If you get stressed, nervous or anxious riding at home or in competition, then this is the book for you. It explains how to train your brain to handle the fear and doubt and to stay focused and calm allowing you to ride to the best of your ability.
Psychotherapist and horse woman, Andrea Monsarrat Waldo uses her two decades of competitive riding experience to help riders improve their confidence and understand their feelings of fear. Waldo is a US Eventing Association certified riding instructor and co-owner of Triple Combination Farm in Vermont where she runs Stressless Riding Performance Coaching workshops.
The author clearly knows her stuff, not only is she a rider but she works with people who have PTSD, depression and anxiety, so can see the issue from both sides of the fence.
The book explains how damaging negative self-talk can be, this she calls the ‘lizard brain.’ The’ lizard brain’ can work overtime and exaggerate the problems that riders can suffer from:- catastrophizing, paying too much attention to anxiety, listening to war stories, remembering the fear not the success, over generalising problems, exaggerating weakness, minimising abilities and expecting perfectionism. All of which create the perfect storm of nerves which make riding and especially competing a miserable experience. Unfortunately horses pick up on the fear and can react badly, amplifying the problem. .
The book is divided into three easy to read sections, the first shows how stress affects the brain and explains to readers how to handle the emotions they are feeling and to put their mind chatter to good use.
Section two is about focus, confidence and performance, demonstrating to riders that they can cope regardless of the horse they have, or their bank balance. While it is wonderful to have a professional trainer available to nurture your talent and give advice, riders can go it alone. This section explains to riders how to focus during their time in the saddle and tap into their skills no matter their nerves. All great athletes have one thing in common – focus.
Section three discusses battling the big demons, those which occur with riders who are recovering from falls.
The book gives fun and easy to do exercises for riders to do in their own time to look deeper at the problems they are having and try to get a deeper prospective on them. If you understand what is at the bottom of your fear then it becomes less of a giant hurdle. As in a lot of things in life confidence comes from competence. Waldo encourages riders to ‘own’ the riding skills they have, no matter how fear is affecting them. Women especially seem to be unable to be proud of their achievements, seeming to be genetically programmed to put themselves down.
In the text Waldo gives ways to deal with these nerve problems and discover why there problems are occurring. This is a tremendous help, as once the root cause of the problem is understood they are half way to being solved.
Waldo comes up with some great advice, to deal with the issue of nerves. There are exercises to help you have focused calm and mindfulness, plus mantras to chant. She also advises riders to channel riders they admire and to push themselves slightly so there is a feeling of achievement rather than despair.
Her knowledge of working with riders who are competing really comes into play in the book. She advises riders to set realistic goals to be honest about their horse and their abilities and to have their own goals not the ones friends think they should have. She also gives great advise on how to make the horse safer and better behaved at shows by getting him used to the noise and distraction at home. She also challenges riders to assess the horse they have and if they are suited, she discusses the wrong equestrian partnerships that are often seen.
The final section of the book deals with battling the big demons – the fear that comes from a bad fall and injury. Waldo immediately helps the reader by explaining that a physiological injury is just as real as a broken bone. She makes no promises to cure this type of fear, explaining that it can be frustrating and does take time
The advice she offers is sensible, riders may need to go back to basics, to find a steady eddy to ride and also to realise the damage may be so severe they may not get better. There is hope though, riders are advised to write down what they are feeling and to devise a come -back plan, assessing where they are currently and giving a direction and end result, so there is something to aim for.
The book finishes with tips for trainers working with riders who are having nerve issues details how they make excuses to get out of things that make them afraid and offers final thoughts on befriending your ‘lizard brain’.
This well written and easy to read book is highly recommended for any rider who wants to unlock their riding potential, conquering fear, finding focused calm and improving their performance."
Written by Jacqui Broderick, Horse and Pony magazine, Ireland.