Remember riding patterns with ease
Tips to optimize brain power and stop freaking out
Most of us don’t realize how much brain power gets used up during riding patterns. You might be thinking that it’s not hard to just remember the maneuvers of the pattern and that’s all you need to worry about. This flawed thinking is costing you ribbons.
It’s important to realize is that those little hitches in your riding such as delayed cues or a lapse in flow from one maneuver to the next are due to system overload. You’re working hard at remembering the pattern, your cues, keeping your heels down, shoulders back, hands steady, chin up, reins quiet, seat engaged, plus making it all look easy and fun. Cut to total meltdown in the ring.
So what does one do to ease system overload? How about increase your brain power and decrease the stress that’s clogging up the works. Here are the top ten things that I teach equitation and horsemanship students so they can do just that, making remember riding patterns a no brainer.
Maximize brain power to crush it in the show ring
1. Eat brain food on show day & every day
Eating nutrient-rich foods like blueberries, walnuts, and avocado will fuel your brain, giving you more energy to focus on your patterns. Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time will not only ensure that you are eating well but it will also free up brain power as you will not have to be making decisions about food or getting hungry if you run short on time.
2. Crush negative thoughts
As you look at your pattern on paper it’s likely you’re going to pick out the hardest elements first. It’s natural for our brains to look for potential failure – that’s how we have survived all these years. When negative thoughts creep in about your weaknesses or things your horse struggles to perform you need to crush them immediately. The riders that are nailing their patterns see that most challenging areas as spots to rise above their competition. If part of the pattern is hard for your horse its hard for everyone’s horse, shining in those areas make the difference between getting a ribbon and getting the gate.
3. Stretch it out
Before you look at your pattern do some stretching. If you feel like a weirdo busting out your favorite yoga moves in front of everyone pop into the bathroom or step into your horse trailer to get your stretch on. Getting the circulation going throughout your whole body will help bring more oxygen to your brain giving you more power to remember the pattern and make good decisions at the moment.
Focusing on breathing can help quiet down the rest of your system so your brain isn’t trying to function against a noisy background. This article here takes you through a few of my most effective breathing +centered focus exercises to quiet the show ring monkeys so you can think clearly.
5. Surround yourself with focused positive people
We’ve all been to those shows where riders are picking apart themselves and their horses, radiating negative energy onto everyone within earshot. Get Away From These People. The people around you are going to rub off on you, especially during times of stress. Strategically picking the riders you surround yourself with will significantly improve your mental game and your riding. Don’t just watch for the riders that are winning, watch for the riders that are in a state of flow with their horses, the riders and horses that are happy and focused.
6. Tidy up
I know it probably seems a bit counterproductive to tidy up your space in the middle of showing but having a clean tack space will eliminate feeling frazzled. Think of the space around you as a reflection of the inside of your head. If you’ve got things strung out all over the place with no organization it will be very hard to feel prepared.
Practice in the most simple, clean space possible. The footings don’t have to be perfect. The area needs to be conducive to you focusing on the elements without distraction.
This one should be obvious but I’m putting it in as a huge reminder to everyone. Most of us know we should get a good nights sleep before a big show to perform our best but in this area, common sense is not common practice. When you go to sleep out your phone out of reach, diffuse some essential oils that help you get good rest (or rub them on the bottom of your feet), stay hydrated before bed, and avoid eating late at night but eat foods that will stick with you through the night (think whole fiber-rich foods).
8. Stay hydrated
Our brains are over 70% water. Getting dehydrated throughout the show day will dramatically impact your performance. Keep your water handy and drink up. Your body also requires electrolytes to stay hydrated and keep nerves firing effectively. This brand is tasty and not filled with sugar or artificial junk.
9. Visualize the perfect ride
Before you get on your horse sit a quiet space with your pattern and visualize the perfect ride. Picture every detail and how it physically feels to ride through each element. Feel your muscles engaging as you cue your horse. Picture the perfect transitions. Tune in to how quiet your body is, the cool steady rhythm of your heart and your horse’s stride. Feel how easy it is to take deep even breaths and how in sync you are with your horse.
10. Manage your stress before it clogs up your head.
Take breaks between classes to sit quietly or listen to music. Give your body a chance to diffuse any negative vibes that may have stuck with you from the last class so you can start with a clear head on the next ride. I would also recommend checking into getting a mindfulness/mediation ap on your phone for help you get centered. I like Headspace or The Tapping Solution ap. I’ve also created a guided meditation that you can try here to head out on a little virtual horse related journey in your downtime.
While many of these tips might seem pretty basic you’ll be amazed at how your performance in the ring will improve by implementing even just a few of them. Effortlessly remembering patterns will also free up a ton of valuable brain power so you can focus more on communicating with your horse and perfectly timed cues.