By John Haime, Photo by: Katie A. Browne
If you are an equestrian athlete, you know that overthinking in competition causes problems. Too many thoughts lead to hesitation, confusion and a lack of uncertainly in your abilities in the show ring.
So, I’d like to introduce you to a strategy that might help you get into a great riding frame of mind. The strategy was initially developed by my friends Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott – world-class golf coaches – using the Think Box and Play Box with leading professional golfers. For you, the Think Box and Ride Box is a practical approach for your riding to help you use your thinking brain to your advantage, introduce you to your “supercomputer” and let all of your training, lessons, experience do the work and allow you ride the way you are capable of – using your well-developed instincts.
In all of the work I do with some of the world’s leading athletes, including some young, equestrian athletes, we’re always working toward the idea of “just riding” or “just ride”. Take out the interference, narrow the focus and allow talent, coaching and training to hit its mark.
The Supercomputer and the Calculator
You see, you want one of the world’s most complex supercomputers, your subconscious mind, to run the show when you ride. This supercomputer contains everything about you, your experiences, your memories and can do a million things at once. It seamlessly runs all of your body’s systems and functions beneath your consciousness. For perspective, it is estimated it is 30,000 times more powerful than the conscious thinking brain.
Conversely, you want the calculator, your thinking brain or prefrontal cortex, to stay out of the way. It is slow and weak and can only process a small amount of information at one time. The tendency for performers is to overload this thinking brain with so many thoughts that you hesitate, get confused and don’t allow the supercomputer to run the show. This is what you commonly know as overthinking. In high performance, when many things are happening at once and the landscape is constantly shifting, there is no place for slow processing.
So, instead of responding to what’s in front of you in the ring with your well developed instincts and enjoying the ride – your thinking brain gets in the way, you become anxious and too many thoughts in the calculator short circuit the ride …
“Keep him straight”
“More left hand”
“Watch out for jump #6”
“I wonder who’s watching?”
The Think Box and the Ride Box
I’d like you to consider a strategy that you can use at the show ring that will allow you to use your supercomputer and keep the calculator in check.
Before you walk into the ring for your trip and waiting to enter the ring – you will from now on be in the Think Box. In the Think Box you can consider coach suggestions, review the course in your mind, think about last minute details of the ride. You want to distill all of this down to one key thought for the thinking brain.
When your time to show arrives, immediately when you and your partner cross the line into the ring, you are now in the “Ride Box” where your supercomputer or subconscious is in charge. You are on autopilot trusting your instincts, experience and training. Once you walk into the Ride Box, keep one thought in the thinking brain to get things started in a positive way – and then just ride and allow the subconscious to run the show. It knows what to do – trust that everything you need is there!
So, consider the Think Box and Ride Box for your riding. When you’re in the Think Box, talking to your coach and getting ready to enter the ring – put one, simple key thought in your thinking brain to help your trip. When you cross the line into the ring and enter the Ride Box, trust your supercomputer containing all of your training and experience to make the adjustments and run the show.
I think you’ll find that “just riding” will lead to better performance, take out the indecision and help you enjoy your riding that much more.
John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A former professional athlete and current bestselling author of “You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve more … in business, sports and life”, John understands how athletes think and feel … he’s been there – under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. As a world-class coach in the area of performance and one of the world’s leading authorities in Emotional Intelligence, as it relates to performance in sport, John coaches athletes in all sports (including equestrian), executives and artists in a variety of performance areas. He is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes – professional and elite amateur. Performance Development for Equestrian Athletes – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5vU81-hdnA