Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mental Game

As a relatively active person who's played and coached sports I have a decent understanding of how psychology can play a roll in your success or failure as an athlete. At one point in my life I had the mental game down!  I was the girl who would hop on anything and never once doubt my ability to ride it.  Now it takes nerves of steel to hop on anything strange.  

I wonder sometimes what has caused this change.  I've had a few (okay more than a few) pretty nasty wrecks - some requiring hospitalization.  But in the past that wouldn't slow me down.  I was the girl riding and competing with pulled muscles and broken bones.  Happily.  

Yesterday I was placed in a tight spot.  I was not expecting it to happen, but it did.  A girl came out and wanted to see Whiskey.  Let's say I wasn't expecting this.  Whiskey has been sitting in a field doing nothing for in the vicinity of three years.  Now, before all this time passed I would have confidently hopped on her.  Yesterday I was more than a little nervous.  I was scared.  

I had played the mental game so well I was convinced she would buck me off.  I was convinced she would bolt and plant me in the dirt.  That she'd dish out all kinds of things I can't handle.  Having no choice - I'd have to be the first one on.  I saddled her up and put her on the lunge line.  And nothing.  No buck.  No snort.  No blow.  So I lunged her some more.  And nothing.  Pulling her halter off I put her bridle on, placed my helmet on my head and prepared to mount up.  

My legs were shaking so hard I could hardly get my leg in the stirrup.  I stood in the stirrup and got down, repeated the process. Finally I swung myself into the saddle.  Trying to still the muscle quivers I chanted my mantra mentally, "Calm assertive energy".  After all the last thing I wanted to do was set the horse off at this point.  

Walking off I waited for the explosion.  Only nothing happened.  We walked a few laps, did a few patterns and moved up into a trot.  Still nothing.  And she was starting to feel good.  Real good.  Putting my leg into her I tested the water a little, but she moved off my leg smooth as butter on a hot summer day.  I was impressed.  Feeling bolder I asked for the lope.  Perfection.  

Now I know this horse.  I trained this horse, and yet here I was playing negative mental games with myself.  I had gotten myself so worked up that I forgot riding was supposed to be fun.  And did I have FUN yesterday!  Whiskey is definitely a Corvette of the horse world.  Soft, responsive and powerful!  

I had so much fun riding her I'm heading out to do it again today!

1 comment:

The Canadian said...

Yipeee! YOu go cowgirl!!