Daniel Stewart’s Brain Babble

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


Our horses and sport provide us with an endless array of amazing opportunities and experiences, but sadly our brains are sometimes really good at thinking really bad things. Even though we love our horses, riding peers, classes, and competitions; our thoughts don’t always match the greatness of our experiences. Sometimes we just get stuck thinking bad things when good things are happening.

The next time your thoughts and emotions don’t match the greatness of your experiences give the following three-part positive-thinking tip a try. After all, the only thing you have to lose are those nasty negative thoughts! This technique is called thought-stopping and it’s made-up of three interconnected steps:

Step one: Thought Recognition

The first step to stopping unintentional negative thoughts is to recognize you’re doing it in the first place (you can’t fix what doesn’t feel broken). These thoughts typically come in two forms: (1) Tricky (like saying you’ll try to do your best instead of saying you will do your best), and (2) Toxic (like telling yourself you’re a failure just because you failed). If you can tune-in to your self-talk and identify any tricky or toxic talk, you can move-on to the next step of stopping it.

Step two: Thought Removal

Once you discover it, you can disrupt and remove it. That’s the role of a thought-remover (or thought-stopper) and it works by simply saying a predetermined code-word (to yourself) to stop the flow of unwanted babble. In other words, every time you recognize you’re thinking a bad thought, you say (or yell to yourself) a code-word so that it startles your brain into stopping and removing the tricky or toxic talk. The words whoa or halt are common thought-removers and stoppers because they’re often used to stop things (like your horse!).

Step three: Thought Replacement

Now that you’ve stopped the negative self-talk, your mind will be looking for a replacement. The thought you use as a replacement should be memorized, rehearsed often, and give you a clearly-defined plan-of-action. A mojo-mantra like, “Keep calm, Ride on” is a good example of how your thought replacement can give you a clear plan of action..

You can make your thought-replacement even stronger by repeating it several times, and each time, placing the emphasis on a different word (placing the emphasis on the first word the first time, the second word the second time, etc.). For example, if your thought-replacement is “Keep calm, Ride on” repeat it four times and each time shift the emphasis to the next word. It’ll look like this:

KEEP calm, ride on

keep CALM, ride on

keep calm, Ride on

keep calm, ride ON

Before finishing-up, repeat the entire sentence again, only this time place the emphasis on all four words (as if confidently yelling it to yourself). In the end, you’ll have repeated your thought-replacement five times.

The next time your thoughts don’t match the greatness of your movements, give the thought stopping trick a try… and remember, what’s going on between your ears, has a big impact on what happens below them!

Originally posted in Daniel Stewart’s Pressure Proof Academy monthly tips.

Daniel Stewart has been an equestrian for over thirty-five years and has coached riders all over the world for the past twenty-five. Combining his knowledge as an equestrian with a degree in physical education, he created an empowering and inspiring clinic series that helps riders develop equally strong minds and bodies. As the internationally acclaimed author of Pressure Proof Your Riding, Ride Right, and Fit and Focused in 52; he’s widely considered one of the worlds leading experts on equestrian sport psychology, athletics, and performance. He teaches clinics and seminars to thousands of riders each year including an annual summer clinic-tour that includes 50 clinics in more than 30 cities over a span of  60 days. He’s a sough-after keynote speaker, has published countless magazine articles, and is an equestrian sport psychology and rider fitness contributor for many other equestrian associations.