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Tonya Johnston, Mental Skills Coach answers listener questions with Andrea Waldo, performance coach and author of Brain Training for Riders. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
GUESTS AND LINKS EPISODE 316:
- Host: Tonya Johnston, Visit her Website, Facebook and buy her book Inside Your Ride
- Guest: Andrea Waldo was a practicing psychotherapist for 18 years and is currently a performance coach and US Eventing Association Certified riding instructor. Andrea is the author of “Brain Training for Riders: Unlock Your Riding Potential with StressLess Techniques for Conquering Fear, Improving Performance, and Finding Focused Calm”.
- Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
- Photo Credit: Brant Gamma Photos
- Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Sponsors: Purina Animal Nutrition, Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association, America Cryo, Alexis Kletjian Jewelry, LAURACEA, BoneKare, Wordley Martin Premium Equestrian Surfaces, Show Strides Book Series, Online Equestrian College Courses, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, and American Equestrian School
This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Tonya Johnston [00:00:35] This is episode 316 of the Plaidcast. I’m Tonya Johnston mental skills coach and this is Inside Your Ride. Today’s podcast is brought to you by the Taylor Harris Insurance Services and the Plaid Horse Magazine. On today’s show, I’m answering listener questions with Andrea Waldo, performance coach and author of Brain Training for Riders. Stay tuned.
Tonya Johnston [00:03:01] Hi everyone. Welcome to The Plaidcast Inside Your Ride. I’m Tonya Johnston and I’m here with Andrea Waldo. Hi, Andrea.
Andrea Waldo [00:03:11] Hi. How’s it going?
Tonya Johnston [00:03:12] Good. How are you?
Andrea Waldo [00:03:13] I’m doing great, thanks.
Tonya Johnston [00:03:15] Good. So happy New Year to you and to everyone listening. It’s quite the kick off out here where I am. We were having a lot of rain out here in California. Andrea, where are you?
Andrea Waldo [00:03:26] I am up in Vermont, so very close to the Canadian border. And we’re unfortunately having some rain, too, which is really weird for us. Normally, it’s snowing at this time of year, so the horses are standing in a lot of mud and that’s not a lot of fun.
Tonya Johnston [00:03:40] No, it is a challenge. It is. This time of year is always fraught with different kinds of challenges. So it’s definitely a good time to be working on mindset for sure.
Andrea Waldo [00:03:54] Yeah, definitely. That’s what I’ve been encouraging everybody to do. You know, winter is one of those times where you can just really get quiet and focus on the little details that you can’t do during show season.
Tonya Johnston [00:04:03] Right. Exactly. Exactly. And and so, listeners, those of you who don’t know Andrea, Andrea is the author of Brain Training for Riders, which is a book I know a lot of you have read. I definitely recommend it. It’s on my recommended reading for my Mindset Boost group. I’ve had Andrea. Andrea, you were on the podcast, what, a couple years ago?
Andrea Waldo [00:04:27] I think a couple of years ago. Yeah. Yeah. You know, COVID just obliterated my sense of time. So I agree it was either the before times of the now times.
Tonya Johnston [00:04:37] Exactly. But Andrea, maybe we could get started. We’re going to do some great question and answer time. So listeners were able to send in questions, which I appreciate so much. I got a bunch of great questions. We’re going to do some some brainstorming and chatting together about those questions. But Andrea, why don’t we kick things off? Maybe you could just introduce yourself a little bit more so people can get a good understanding of your background?
Andrea Waldo [00:05:05] Sure. I came to so I’m a riding instructor. I own a boarding facility, and I also have this other gig where I do workshops and clinics and individual coaching for riders with confidence issues. And I kind of got there in a sort of a meandering way. I was a therapist for eighteen years working with people who had had experiences of trauma, all varieties. And along side of that I was starting to teach riding lessons and I eventually decided to go full time with the horses. But then I was working with a lot of people who were struggling with their confidence, and a friend of mine looked at me and said, ‘You need to write a book’. And I kind of didn’t want to do it, but then it just sort of developed sort of naturally and it ended up being a lot of fun. And so now I travel around different parts of the country teaching clinics based on the brain training for riders that I do.
Tonya Johnston [00:06:03] Mm hmm. So when you when you do a clinic, is it mounted and unmounted then?
Andrea Waldo [00:06:08] Yeah, it’s both. So the beginning of the beginning of the clinic for everybody is a workshop that we usually do around a good three, 4 hours, sometimes depending on how much everybody’s talking. But we, we review sort of the concepts of how the brain works and why we do what we do in the saddle when things are stressful. And then after that, after the workshop, then we do lessons as well and it’s focused on helping people through their specific personal issues.
Tonya Johnston [00:06:34] Oh, that’s great. And do you have like, general, is there anything coming up that like anyone could attend or how do people go about getting getting into one of those?
Andrea Waldo [00:06:43] Sure. At the moment, my website is not very up to date because I haven’t had a chance to update it, but my Facebook page is generally pretty current. I have a let’s see, I have a couple of clinics coming up. One’s in Maine in January, one is in Connecticut at the end of April. And then I think I have another one possibly in Virginia in the middle of April. So usually right around yeah, right around the beginning of the year. I update all that stuff on my Facebook page and on my on my website. So it’ll be up there.
Tonya Johnston [00:07:15] Oh, good. Awesome. That’s terrific. Yeah, it’s a good time of year. Same with me. I do my online group coaching mindset boost and our winter session is going to kick off next week on the 10th, on January 10th, so people can go to my website and and sign up for that. If that’s something that’s interesting. I have some people who have done it multiple times, which is awesome, but it’s so fun. Group work is, I think, so enlightening because people really learn a lot from each other and listening and just being in an environment where people are being open and honest about stuff, where I think sometimes in our equestrian world it’s all the, you know, be brave and carry on. It’s really nice to be in a in a safe place where we all can share and just be really open about some of our challenges, whether, you know, not necessarily just fear based, but just in general. Like what are some of the blocks you run into and how do you cope with them? It’s, I think, really inspiring to hear other people’s stories, too.
Andrea Waldo [00:08:20] Exactly. Yeah. And I think that one of the biggest things that I love about about doing things in groups like that is just the. Oh, you feel that way too. I’m not all by myself in this. And so often people think that they’re the only ones who feel this way or they’re the only ones that are struggling with this particular thing. And so it just helps them to relax a little bit about, you know, not beat themselves up so much because, you know, before they thought they were the only ones and now they’re like, oh, this is just a thing that happens.
Tonya Johnston [00:08:48] Right? Right. And so instead of wasting time and energy on that comparison piece and being negative, they can just take that energy and like, okay, what am I going to do about, you know, this? You know what I mean? Sort of like that onion layer of, gosh, I must be, you know, the worst or whatever. You know, instead, let’s just go ahead and solve solve the issue and and go about gathering some strength and some tools to to go forward.
Andrea Waldo [00:09:16] Yeah, exactly.
Tonya Johnston [00:10:21] Let’s go ahead and start with our questions. And I just want to take a second to say that I know I, I got these I gathered these questions on all of the social media platforms that I have on Instagram on Inside Your Ride and my Facebook page. And I did not sit down and really dive into them very much. So I copied and pasted and made a list and sent it to you, Andrea. And so I just wanted to share with our listeners that we haven’t really, you know, cobbled or outlined, you know, answers or responses to any of these. I thought it would be more interesting for you and I to just sort of bounce ideas off of each other and and really sort of do a little bit more freewheeling of, you know, what questions what deepening questions we would ask someone who was presenting with this kind of query and just sort of talk it through a little bit as we go. So we have listener questions and then also some grab bag questions about our work as well. So that was kind of a fun twist. So we’re doing listener questions and sort of a grab bag of what it’s like to be a mental skills coach. What is your title, Andrea? What do you call yourself? Do you just call yourself a.
Andrea Waldo [00:11:38] Coach at this point? Yeah, I call myself a professional performance coach. I am not. I used to be a licensed therapist, and when I decided to go full time at horses, I just dropped I dropped the license. So. Totally.
Tonya Johnston [00:11:50] So. Right. So performance coach. Yeah. Okay. Perfect. Yeah. Yeah. Good. I know everyone takes a little bit different based on their background, their training. You know, obviously your, your title fits in line with it, so that sounds great. Okay. So this listener is Patricia in Florida, and she asks, Why do I lose so much confidence in just a month or two, especially in the winter, as I get ready for a new show season to start?
Andrea Waldo [00:12:15] Yeah, that definitely happens a lot. People come out in the spring and go, Oh my gosh, like I used to know how to do this and why do I feel like a complete beginner again? You know, repetition is such an important part of learning, and because it’s such an important part of learning, it’s therefore a really important part of confidence. You know, we the more we do something, the more familiar it gets. Right? And then the more familiar something gets, the happier our brains are. Our brains hate unpredictability. They really don’t like surprises. And so when our brains know what’s coming because we’ve done it recently, then we settle into that a lot more easily and we feel really confident because we know what’s coming up next. We know how to respond. We have a really good idea of what’s about to get thrown at us. But when you have a couple of months where you’re not doing as much or you you know, whether it’s because it’s winter or your horse is dealing with an abscess that goes on forever or whatever it might be, you get away from the repetition of things. And so it starts to become a little rusty and your brain starts to forget what it knows a little bit. And so it feels like, Oh, I haven’t done this in a really long time, maybe somethings different and maybe I don’t really know what I’m doing. And those are more unconscious thoughts and feelings then then right there on the surface. But the longer we’re away from something, the more we doubt ourselves and the harder it is to kind of pick it back up again. I remember reading a quote about from a a world class concert violinist who said that if he doesn’t practice every day, like if he misses two days of practice, he starts to notice and within a week the audience can notice. And that somebody that’s at the absolute top of their game. And I remember Boyd Martin, when he was injured saying something about like, oh, getting back into this, I’m only jumping like 60 fences a week. You know, normally I jump like 200, somebody, you know, who’s jumping all the time, even they feel like if I miss out on this for a while, then I’m not at the top of my game with it. So it’s repetition. And that gives our brain the security that we need to feel confident.
Tonya Johnston [00:14:32] Right. And I think also I think there’s an added piece of. I was thinking about this the other day, just in general with some clients I was working with of I think there’s a lot of time spent, especially like I was saying around in California, we’ve had a lot of rain and so there’s people not able to ride and I’m sure, with dealing with different snow and different weather conditions in the winter. I think sometimes the focus becomes so much on what you’re not doing rather than what on what you are doing right. So if you’re doing a really good job of cross training and visualizing like what you would have done that day. So. So jump a course, you know, visualize a course or two each day when you would have had a lesson like making sure that you are at least, like you said, like using the repetition will using your mental skills to provide some repetition and and really taking heart in, you know, the list of things that you are doing in your downtime that is going to keep you mentally tough. And I think so much it’s like, Oh, we can’t do this and we can’t do that. And we’re not you know, I’m not able to jump a full course or my trainer, you know, we’re just doing poles on the ground. It doesn’t feel like enough or, you know, So when we focus on that, we’re we’re looking at the gap instead of looking at what skills we are able to use and get strong with.
Andrea Waldo [00:15:58] Right. And those skills are usually the building blocks of the things that we’re doing anyway, right? Know. Yeah, it’s, it’s the foundations, it’s the drills of, you know, if you picture football players doing their footwork drills in practice like they do a lot more of that than they do actually running plays.
Tonya Johnston [00:16:14] Yeah. No, absolutely.
Andrea Waldo [00:16:16] Mm hmm. One of the things I like to do actually, in the winter that really helps me not even so much in terms of confidence, but just enthusiasm is going back and watching videos of, you know, my prior performances that were memorable to me in some way that kind of just reminds you, Oh, that’s who I am.
Tonya Johnston [00:16:35] Right? Oh, I love that. Yes, absolutely. And then.
Andrea Waldo [00:16:40] It’s so easy to forget when It’s ten degrees outside.
Tonya Johnston [00:16:41] Yes, it is. And it’s so great to watch and put yourself back in, even watching the best sections of a ride or like a particular line that you remember and then closing your eyes and actually reriding it and using your visualization to really visit the memory in a vivid way is a is a great. Because it’s evidence, right? It’s not it’s not the other that’s the other problem about this downtime is there’s so much projection into the future and the future hasn’t happened yet. So it feels stressful, right? We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t predict it. And that is that that lack of comfort in the predictability is is not something you need to sit in. It’s like it’s not it’s not a great marinade, right? So instead, if we’re going to look somewhere besides the present, just as an exercise, it’s better to look back on, Hey, this is the evidence I have that I can do this, that my horse and I are a great team, You know, that’s worth marinating in, right? So at least if if you are sort of sidelined or, you know, the barn is closed or the ring is underwater or whatever it might be, we’re not just sitting around twiddling their thumbs with, you know, a worried look on our face, like, oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen next month when I go to such and such winter circuit wherever I go or the first show of the year, whatever it is, you know, that’s that’s going to create that extra stress and and sort of backslide the confidence.
Andrea Waldo [00:18:10] So I think we forget that we’ve been there before, too.
Tonya Johnston [00:18:14] Yeah.
Andrea Waldo [00:18:15] Like every spring I go out and, you know, I jumped in the indoor. But there’s a very big difference between your indoor eye and your outside eye. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I get out there and sometimes my brain is going, Oh, wait a minute, I can’t ride. I can’t ride for garbage right now. Like, I can’t see a distance to save my life. And I’m like, wait a minute, I’ve been here before many, many, many times. And I feel this way every time I come out in the spring. Yeah. And I figure it out, you know, after a couple of jump sessions and I think we forget that a lot. We forget that. Oh, right. I’ve done this before. I’ve been in this position before and I have found my way has been fine.
Tonya Johnston [00:18:50] Yes, yes, absolutely. And the other thing I think that can happen with the lack of repetition, as you were saying, is that sometimes we fall into bad habits about our self-concept and we forget to own just like you’re saying, like I’ve done this before, I’m capable of coming back out of a downtime. You know, also, we we sometimes it gets away from us when there are certain parts of our riding that we tend to have sort of negative beliefs about those those little negative whispers can get stronger without sort of the tamping down of the repetition, like that Repetition kind of like puts a stamp like, oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes. And and I think I think that’s why I mean, this is sort of my inspiration to people just throughout the year is to really take care that your skills, that you’re really owning your skills so that you’re not as vulnerable to that kind of back slide. You know, that you don’t let that you don’t let just the repetition and just the three lessons a week tell you that can’t be the only thing telling you you can do it. You’ve got to be breaking it down, understanding like, okay, what is it that makes me able to do it? And, and hey, wait, that’s a part of me that’s not transient. That’s not something I have to, like, trot out of the closet three times a week in order to believe. Right? Kind of like what you were saying.
Andrea Waldo [00:20:18] Luck only happens once. You know, you didn’t get lucky. Things did not go well out there because you got lucky, right? That did not happen with horses. So, you know, remembering to attribute your successes to yourself and not just your failures to yourself, you know, Right. Pointing the fingers at ourselves when we make mistakes, but we forget to take credit for, you know, for our strength. And I think that’s especially true for women. Yeah, we’re really good discounting our strengths and exaggerating our weaknesses. And so I often make I make my workshop participants write down ten riding skills or ten horsemanship skills that they have. And every single time somebody wants to just just absolutely kill me. I can’t do that.
Tonya Johnston [00:21:00] I can’t do. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then those are the folks. It’s sort of like meditation. The harder it is to meditate, the more you need it. So the harder it is to write that, the more important it is. Exactly.
Andrea Waldo [00:21:11] Exactly. Yeah.
Tonya Johnston [00:21:13] All right, Awesome. Okay, so let’s do a grab bag question here. What do you love most about being a mental skills coach or performance coach? And I guess I would say. I love just people. Getting back in touch with the joy of what they’re doing and the process and just that that there’s so many ways we get away from process. And when I have someone text me or tell me or email me or I’m talking to them in a session and they’re like, gosh, you know, and, and the and the sort of the outcome or the, the performance itself is, is important in what they’re saying. But it’s more about like I can hear the emotion in what they’re saying and how much joy there was and how much they feel pride in partnership and effort and the fact that they were able to to do something or be in the moment in a way that had been sort of elusive for them. That kind of breakthrough is super, super exciting. It’s like a total drug, right?
Andrea Waldo [00:22:17] Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. People ask if I miss being a therapist and I’m like, I get to do it all the time. And of course, horse people are the most motivated people out there. And that’s one of the things that’s so much fun, is that everybody who comes to us with this stuff is like, Please help me figure this out because I want to get back to the thing that I love. And yeah, I agree completely. It’s about it’s about people reconnecting with what they love about the sport. You know, you lose it underneath, you know, underneath the fear or the stress or the pressure that we put on ourselves. And sometimes we forget to, you know, be the little kid who just loves sitting on a horse every day. Right. Or as often as we can. And so, yeah, you know, whatever’s gotten in the way of that, like watching that fall away and watching somebody achieve something that’s been really hard for them is just I mean, it just makes my heart explode. It’s the best thing ever.
Tonya Johnston [00:23:09] Yeah. Yeah. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. We’re lucky for sure because that person only has their you know what I mean? Like they have friends and stuff, but like, I get to see so much of that, so I feel like so, so fortunate and so lucky to be a part of that. It like it, it is nothing but positive energy and sort of circles back into everything I’m doing. And so as as my quote unquote job, it’s like, wow, I would love to be I would do this anyway. You know what I mean?
Andrea Waldo [00:23:40] Right, Exactly. And it reminds me to do that. You know what I don’t know about you, but when I say the same things over and over it, it reminds me to do the same thing because I can get super intense, especially in the middle of the season. And like, I’ve got to nail this half pass correctly or I’ve got to make sure that this, you know, that she could get this line of jumps. And it’s easy to forget sometimes, like, Oh, this is just fun. And the process of training is really fun. So it reminds me to step back in the moment, too, and enjoy my own riding. I always go home from a clinic really charged up to go just ride my horse because I like to ride my horse.
Tonya Johnston [00:24:15] Right? Right, exactly. Yeah. Okay. So, all right, next, next listener question. Sometimes I feel like I’m so worried and fixating on not disappointing my trainer that I get sort of locked up. It looks like I don’t know how to ride. It’s awful. What should I do? That was from Liz in Texas.
Andrea Waldo [00:24:37] It is not your job to make us happy.
Tonya Johnston [00:24:40] Yeah.
Andrea Waldo [00:24:42] It is not your job to please us.
Tonya Johnston [00:24:45] Yeah, and I think it plays into a real as you were talking about women, like there’s people for whom their priority in their personality is developed in such a way that they always are used to putting other people first.
Andrea Waldo [00:25:02] Right.
Tonya Johnston [00:25:03] And sort of. It’s so important to feel like you’re a teammate of your coach or trainer rather than a performer for them that, you know, to really make sure the role is sort of, Oh, yeah, okay, we’ve got different roles on the team, but we’re all on the same team.
Andrea Waldo [00:25:23] On the same team, Yeah. And yeah, absolutely. I love that. I love that. That’s a really great way of putting it. I always tell people, like my expectation as the coach is that you show up open to learn and that you give me the best you got on that day. Mm hmm. You know, especially if you’re an adult, amateur with a life and a career and children and all the things. Like, some days you’re going to show up after a week from hell and sick kids and all the things, and you’re not going to have 100% of yourself. But if you show up and you’re trying to give me whatever you got on that day and go out there and do the best for yourself, then that’s what I that’s that’s all I need.
Tonya Johnston [00:26:08] Absolutely. And I think that for this for for Liz, I would say. You know, the more you can open up dialog and communication with your trainer about, like these are the things I’m learning, these are the things I’m working on. I appreciate, you know, when you say this because it helps me, you know, accomplish these things. Like the more that there’s conversation around the team approach and the way you’re learning and the positives you feel happening, you know, like the growth and the development you feel. I think I think that kind of communication can help sort of shift that dynamic a little bit. It’s hard, you know, sometimes it’s a it’s a trainer who’s putting a ton of pressure on, and sometimes it’s a you thing, right? And sometimes most likely it’s a bit of a blend. And so the more that we shine light on how you’re feeling and even and I’m not saying you have to sit down, you know, obviously trainers are busy and we’re not going to have some humongous conversation. But just to start recognizing when and where, you can open up a bit and share a bit about it, it’ll just help it not feel so black and white like they’re happy or they’re not happy or I pass or I fail. You know, that pass fail attitude we can kind of adopt sometimes it’s just not it’s in no way helpful to being open and present with your horse in the moment.
Andrea Waldo [00:27:35] Right. And I think you get another piece of that too, You know, making sure it’s not black and white is before, you know, especially before the show, if that’s what you’re doing, having a talk with your coach about what your goals are for the show and not just your outcome goals, but your process goals. So not just, oh, I want to win this class or I want to qualify for for finals, but I want to make sure that I’m breathing the whole time and I want to make sure that I keep you know, I’ve been working on this part of my position, so I want to make sure I take that into the ring and that I can reproduce that in your in my performance. And if the two of you can come up together with with, okay, here are the goals that we want you to accomplish for the show. Then again, you’re working as a team and your and also your feeling of pleasing your coach doesn’t rest on what ribbon you have at the end of the day.
Tonya Johnston [00:28:29] Sure. And that and I and I love that. And I would add to that just that you’re able to pull out and isolate moments of success with those goals and not feel like, wow, the whole show wasn’t this way. Or you know what I mean? Like making sure that you’re looking at the moment and I think is sometimes so, so challenging. I have these conversations all the time where if they do something, they make the mistake on the goal. But they did it right four times. There’s still a focus on why it was a failure, because I felt that she still had to tell me to shorten my reins that one time or whatever it was, you know. So you got to be counting that the successes, you sometimes have to look more carefully and filter and be real specific when you find them.
Andrea Waldo [00:29:14] Right? Exactly. And yeah, doing that moment by moment I think is a really good idea because everybody comes out of the ring going, Oh, I blew the distance of fence five. I was like, Well, you just had eight other really good jumps and that is a big deal. And I think having realistic goals too is really important. Like nail I want to nail every single one of my distances is never a realistic goal. Like Michael Young doesn’t even do that. And so, you know, having a I want to you know, I want to nail more of my distances than I did last time is a great goal. And so I think talking that over with your coach, too, is is really useful because that can help you understand what might be realistic to expect, you know, given where you are in your training process.
Tonya Johnston [00:29:57] Mm hmm. Yeah. No, absolutely. Okay. Awesome. Okay. So, Liz, hopefully, hopefully there’s some good gems for you in that. And so let’s switch to a grab bag question. Oh, okay. So what’s the hardest part about being a mental skills coach?
Andrea Waldo [00:30:15] Oh, that’s a good question. I’m going to have to think for a minute. Do you have anything?
Tonya Johnston [00:30:21] Yeah, well, I think. Well, the thing that comes to mind for me is just the is just the time juggle. And. And trying to fit everything together. Because given that I also and you also like ride and compete and busy times of year it’s just like anyone it’s really just similar to any other job right. It’s just making it all work. And I think for me, walking the talk and making sure that, you know, I’m doing my meditation, I’m getting in my cross training, I’m, you know, visualizing as I prepare for a show and I’m having however many clients that day, it’s like, you know, just being I think that’s challenging sometimes to get it all done. And I think that’s just some I think that’s just work. I think it’s just work and life and there’s not really a balance to it. I think it’s more of a a concert and just making the concert harmonious. And so I don’t think it’s oh so unique to the profession, but it’s definitely one where. Maybe more than if I was accountant. An accountant, I wouldn’t feel so much like I really need to be walking the talk. And I’m not just going to toss out my workout because I have a really busy day. You know? Right. So I think that becomes a little bit challenging, but a good challenge. I think it’s a positive challenge.
Andrea Waldo [00:31:41] Yeah. And, you know, I think the thing that that comes up for me with that is the idea of people assuming that because you do this for a living, therefore you always do all the things that you talk about. And so there are definitely times when I find myself like, Oh, I’m struggling with this particular issue. And sometimes that makes it a little bit challenging to help someone else through it in a genuine way. And. You know, I think the I think the key there for me is just that I’m really upfront and honest about it. I say, Yeah, that’s really hard. I have a hard time with that one, too. Here’s what I’ve tried and here’s what I think works and here’s where I haven’t figured out all the answers yet. Right? You know, and it’s always and it’s hard to just to, you know, just to see people hurting. You know, when people come in and, you know, feeling really down on themselves or really scared or whatever, just knowing that, you know, watching somebody go through what they’re going through is just, you know, I you know, my heart goes out to all the people that I’m in where I’m like, oh, this is this sport really demands your whole self. And yeah, you know, so it’s really important when people come in in pain. It’s I’m right there with them.
Tonya Johnston [00:33:00] Right? Yeah. No, absolutely a ton of empathy and compassion for it because we know from the inside and out for sure. Yeah. Yes. Okay so let’s, let’s do another listener question and we will answer this question right after these messages.
Tonya Johnston [00:34:57] Okay, so this question comes from Heidi in California who asked, Why do I feel more relaxed in the show ring than at home practicing? So that’s an interesting question. And what are some, Andrea, what are what are some questions you would ask Heidi if she was sitting with us right now?
Andrea Waldo [00:35:16] Yeah, I guess I would ask specifically. Okay. So what goes through your mind at home that’s different from what’s going through your mind in the show? Mm hmm. You know, and what does what is being at home working, and is it more working on your own or working in a lesson that tends to be tends to be harder because those are really different things. If you’re working alone, then it’s certainly in. And that’s what feels more stressful than it sounds like. There might be problems with trusting yourself, knowing that you’re making the right decisions or doing the right things when you’re schooling. How do I handle situations that are coming up? And if it’s in a lesson, and is it a question of a, a, you know, sort of miscommunications between you and the coach or not feeling comfortable speaking up if something isn’t going well? So those would be some things that I would want to know for sure. Is what is it specifically about being at home that feels really stressful? And then what do you do that works when you get into the show ring? How do you clear your mind and how do you stay present? Because it sounds like if you’re having a good time in there, then you’re probably really present in the moment and struggling at home. Then you may be checked out and and worried about other things.
Tonya Johnston [00:36:37] Yeah, that’s a really good point. And I think sometimes people do build much more preparation because they can, you know, in in a show day than they would at home. And I absolutely agree with you. If you’re flying into the barn and jumping onto your horse after a busy day doing other things like that, that could be stressful. Right? You’re bringing stress with you that maybe in a show setting you’re more practiced at addressing. Putting aside switching gears, you know, maybe you need more of a preparation routine at home. And even if it’s short, it doesn’t. And I think people get away from using preparation routines at home because they don’t have the time. But there’s definitely ways to be creative and shorthand some strategies that you use at a show. That can provide that sort of transition and sort of get you grounded and and ready to sort of partner with your horse versus thinking about things. I think also, you know, part of that might be asking also, how is my horse very different in the show ring versus at home? There are horses that are super wild at home and much more, you know, calm and like, you know, in a different environment, some of these warm bloods that like, you know, don’t like, oh, well, that chair moved six inches. And, you know, because I’m home, it’s my familiar ring or whatever, you know, there’s just differences and they’re animals and so just and not necessarily anything we can do about that but it’s more there may be different mental muscles or skills you want to use at home versus at a show. And that’s totally fine. But we need to know what they are and you have to make sure you’re taking them out of that toolbox and polishing them off and and using them based on the situation.
Andrea Waldo [00:38:32] Right. But I think I think especially for adults amateurs, where you’re very often coming into the ring after work, having some kind of shifting gears ritual where you can shift from your outside self and your real self into your riding self. And it’s as simple as when you’re changing your clothes, just, you know, changing into your riding gear, being really deliberate about, okay, I’m taking off all of my real work self concerns and I’m going to put them over here and I’m going to put my riding stuff on now and I’m going to deal with my real self when I get back. And just having it be more do what you already do, but doing it in a really deliberate way with a particular mindset. That way you’re not adding any more time to, you know, you can do that, you can get ready quickly but still be thinking, okay, got to jettison my real self and set it over there and put on my riding self so I can be present.
Tonya Johnston [00:39:32] Right? Yep. Yeah, that’s good. Definitely good. Good. All right. Let’s let’s jump to actually, we’re going to jump to another listener question just to make sure we have time to get to them all. And this one is from Caroline in California. And she asks, Is it normal to ride better when you’re busy? I recently moved and have been preoccupied with that, but strangely, I’ve found myself riding better than usual. It’s almost like I don’t have time to overthink or get nervous. Does this happen to anyone else? Should I try not to overthink my riding?
Andrea Waldo [00:40:11] And it sounds like Caroline answered her own question.
Tonya Johnston [00:40:13] I know, right? It’s so funny. And it’s also sort of the opposite of what we were just talking about. And I would say it’s I think I think what I want to point out about this is how important it is to know yourself and recognize that we’re all different and we’re all unique. And, you know, so it sounds like Caroline is sort of accidentally learning something about herself here.
Andrea Waldo [00:40:34] Yeah. Right. You know, speaking as somebody who tends to go 10,000 miles an hour with my hair on fire but is also a chronic overthinker. It’s nice when you if you know that you tend to overthink things, then often be having a couple of distractions as you’re as you’re headed to the barn can be a useful thing. Right. Like you said, the opposite of the question that we were talking about a minute ago.
Tonya Johnston [00:40:58] Right. Yeah.
Andrea Waldo [00:41:00] That. That if you don’t have time to spin stories about, you know, the things that might go wrong, then you can come in with a little bit of a clean slate. And if it works for you, then don’t change. It is always what I. You know how I say So.
Tonya Johnston [00:41:19] I wouldn’t necessarily think, you know, getting busy in your head about tackling a bunch of other problems when you’re driving to the barn. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but I’m just mean for Caroline. Like, I would I would say, try something. You know, something that comes to mind would be like, make a playlist with songs. You know the words too, and sing along. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So you’re singing on your way to the barn and you’re like, you know, you’re putting yourself in a good mood, you’re engaged, your energy is getting to in a good place. It’s not dwelling on, oh my gosh, what’s going to happen today or what’s my trainer going to have me do today or, you know, that kind of thing. But it’s also not, you know, I need to solve the issue of, you know, how do I, you know, make sure I organize my four family members weekend and we’re all going in different directions or whatever it is, you know, something that can provide actual true stress and worry. So, Caroline, it sounds like you’ve got some I would recommend that you journal and do some reflecting as you’re going through this time and see, just like you in the question have started recognizing, you know, what’s working, what’s not working. The more you’re building this awareness, the more strength you’re going to have access to. You know, we can’t act on anything if we don’t know what’s going on. So this sounds like a great time. It sounds like you’re a little bit ripe for some investigation and just sort of. Paying attention to what’s working.
Andrea Waldo [00:42:57] Well, and that way she can carry it along to when things settle down. Exactly right. Okay. So what worked about that? So that I can so that I don’t have to be frenzied? You know, it doesn’t only happen when I’m frenzied and busy, but I can take this and I can take this along with me when. When things are a little more settled.
Tonya Johnston [00:43:12] Right. Right. And and I think also, Caroline, in the question is, you know, you’re riding better. So that’s that. You know, it’s not for not for Andrea and I to tell you. Yes, it’s good not to overthink. Your riding is already showing. If you feel like you’re doing well and your horse is happy and you guys are on the same page. I think that’s your answer right there. So I think that stepping away from overthinking and trying to, you know, micromanage the riding from a real sort of analytic or analysis kind of perspective, it sounds like it is. It is helpful. So that’s great. Awesome. All right. So let’s get to another listener question here. This one is from Stephanie in Queensland, Australia. Hi, Stephanie. Thanks for your question. Thanks for listening. Let’s see. So it says, How do I get past the belief that I’m too unfocused mentally to succeed as a dressage rider? I’m like this across my whole life, so can’t draw hope by thinking of other places where I’m focused because I’m not. Hmm. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I think. I think that you’re looking at a growth edge. I don’t know. What do you think, Andrea?
Andrea Waldo [00:44:29] Well, my first thought is the most helpful question in the universe, from my perspective, is. Is that thought true? Mm hmm. Because it is- it’s almost never 100% true that we do something 100% of the time. And if you’re completely unfocused all the time, then you’re, you know, then literally nothing is getting done ever. And so the fact that, you know, if you look at, okay, I’m clearly getting something done here in my world. Right. So, you know, I don’t I don’t need a I don’t need parents anymore. I’m still you know, I’m an adult doing adult things, so. Right. While, it might be hard to get those things accomplished. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. And I think we get. Really. You know, our stories about ourselves can get cemented in some times, especially if they’re stories that we’ve heard since we were a little kid, you know? Oh, ever since, you know, she’s just a scatterbrain. She can’t keep her act together. Oh, she’s such a whatever. And it’s that can become part of our identities without without our meaning, too. And so a lot of it is okay, but I still manage to get from point A to point B, so I really am doing something right. And what would it look like if I changed my story? And for I don’t know, I I’m not a big fan of completely flipping stories to from negative to positive because I think our brains don’t make that leap well. But if you can say, okay, where are the places where I’m a little more focused than average, or where are the times when I’m not quite as scattered and how I’ve, I managed to ride this much, you know, so far? How have I gotten here? Clearly something that was working because I’m still here doing it right. So introducing the idea of sometimes and you know, sometimes and, and that words like that rather than always and never because that introduces possibility rather than just try to flip it on its head and be all positive about it, which just makes your brain rebel sometimes that’s not true.
Tonya Johnston [00:46:43] Right. No, absolutely. And it’s got to be focused on things that you feel you can authentically own. And so, like what you’re saying is look for the moments where you are accomplishing it. That makes a lot of sense because it’s getting away from those blanket statements. The other thing that comes to my mind for Stephanie is. You know, sometimes we think about a dressage test or a course or a class or a pattern or whatever it might be. As this huge mountain we’re climbing. And it’s it’s so big. And so the other thing I would say is, you know, a test is only a bunch of movements put together. So breaking things into sections and and saying, well, can I ride a timing circle? Yeah, yes I can. And then I’m going to go on a straight line, you know what I mean? Like.
Andrea Waldo [00:47:35] Yeah.
Tonya Johnston [00:47:36] Talking yourself through breaking it apart so that you have these bite sized pieces that feel way more manageable and way more doable. And that’s a more effective way to focus when the whole sum total feels overwhelming. Or you feel like when you think about, you know, the definition of being a good dressage rider feels like this big, big, big thing that you can’t wrap your arms around. You just you want to practice breaking it down and and just taking it piece by piece. And so, of course, you’re someone that can ride a test, you can ride a horse, you can do the movements. Of course you can put those things together when you think about them in a manageable. Incremental way.
Andrea Waldo [00:48:24] Right. And especially when it comes to things like memorizing dressage tests, it’s like, okay, so how do you learn? To drive to a new place. What are the what are the ways that you go about finding your way somewhere if you’ve never been there before? Okay. So think about that in terms of memorizing a dressage test. The other piece of it is that kind of defining. Okay, so what are the skills that you think you need as a dressage rider that you that you don’t have? But also, what what are the things that maybe you don’t need detail focus about that also make you a good dressage rider? How’s your overall feel? You know, can you can you ride your horse and say, wow, I know that he’s that he feels really good today or I know that I need to get him more in front of my leg. Sometimes. You know, what gets termed lack of focus is more that you’re better at big picture than then detail, and you might need to get better at detail and learn how to do that. But you also can see how okay, how does my big picture skill work into this and how does that serve me?
Tonya Johnston [00:49:34] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s great. Yeah. And how do I keep working on it?
Andrea Waldo [00:49:41] Right. Mm hmm. Exactly. Mostly as a dressage rider, I think you need patience more than anything else and the ability to get really excited about three good steps. Yeah. Once you’ve got those things, then you can work on, okay. How do I memorize a test? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tonya Johnston [00:49:59] So? Yeah, totally. All right, So let’s go forward to another listener question. This question comes from Sarah in California, and she asks, How would you recommend handling a perfectionist type mindset? I sometimes struggle with wanting every ride or aspects of my rides to be a certain way. For example, if I’m working on lateral movements and it’s not being executed as smoothly, as smoothly as I’d like, I sometimes get frustrated with myself and worry that I’m not riding as well as I believe I should be able to. This can lead to longer rides when I feel the need to repeat it until it’s done to my standards. She goes on to say, I believe that all of this comes from good intentions and wanting to improve, to be the best I can be. But I also feel that this type of thinking can be very debilitating mentally. Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrea Waldo [00:50:53] Perfectionism is very much a two sided coin, right? Like, it’s. It’s striving to do as best as you possibly can, but then the the painful side of it is not being able to be satisfied with anything less than exactly what you think it should be. And that’s a trap. Because especially when it comes to horses, there’s no such thing as perfection. And what I what I find really useful in dealing with perfectionism is to and to help flip it on its head is to think about what you want to do from your horses perspective, because we’re so much kinder to our horses than we are to ourselves. And so if you’re feeling like, Oh, I’ve got to get it done, I’ve got to do it just I’ve got to do it just so that wasn’t good enough, I need to do it again. If you kind of think about it from your horse’s perspective, okay, Is my horse getting tired? Is my horse getting a little bit frustrated? Because they’re not sure. They’re not sure what I need Or is my horse has my horse made some progress today? And maybe that’s as much as they, you know, maybe that they’ve given me as much as they’ve got today and maybe it’s time to stop. So I find that part really helpful because we are so much kinder to our horses than we are to ourselves. And they’re so much more realistic about what we expect from our horses most of the time. And I also like to think about things that you can reframe it as excellence rather than perfection. That helps too.
Tonya Johnston [00:52:19] Yeah, the perfect I think it’s useful to completely take it out of the vocabulary. Yeah, right. You know, it’s just it’s just not a useful word. And it’s just only something that. We sort of hit ourselves over the head with. And and I and I think that sometimes, you know, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who tend toward this type of thinking around, you know, you you think it’s doing you a service and that and that not being a perfectionist will then make you complacent. But that isn’t the opposite. You know, complacency is actually not the opposite of being a perfectionist. You want to think of more of, again, going back to process and. Thinking about how does striving serve me? Does there’s positive aspects to striving? We just want to break down the the the parts that are filled with sort of compassion and empathy and presence in the process. How do we bring those out of what this definition of being a perfectionist is? Is it someone who perseveres? Is it someone who’s resilient is it someone who works hard, you know, like you can tell you can be a hard worker and leave the perfectionist judgment aside like, you know, you be be more maybe be an investigator, maybe do some work either with a coach or on your own and sort of ask yourself, what does being a perfectionist mean to me? And then break out some of the productive parts that there are some. I just think that the blanket of it is very, very potentially damaging and and hurtful. And so it sounds like that Sara has sort of an inkling that it might be causing her to kind of overdo her training rides. And it’s you know, she said this perfectionism can at times be exhausting for both me and the horse. And so, yeah, like, you know, let’s take some of those good parts of it and maybe then you’ll be able to recognize, wow, we worked hard today and so we can be done. We put in some great work, you know, we got some great steps, we got some great moments, and I’m going to be able to look at those and know that we put the effort in and and leave it leave this where it is and end on a positive note here. Right.
Andrea Waldo [00:54:48] And I think, too, like, this is where so there’s actually a couple of books that I would think that that would be really useful. One is called The Talent Code by Dan Coyle. And he talks about why perfection actually is not how you get better at things. Yeah. He talks about how mistakes are actually a really critical part, not just, oh, it’s okay to make mistakes, but that it’s a fundamental part of learning that it’s actually important. And then the other book that I think is really useful, I forget if it’s called Mindset or Growth Mindset, but by Carol Dweck. So her work is about having having a mindset rather than fixed that they’re good at this or bad at this, and you’re either born with it or you’re not. But that my my goal every day is growth rather than my goal. Every day is perfection. Right. Yeah. I find the 0 to 10 scale really helpful there too. Like, okay, how would I rank that shoulder in that? I just did. Okay. It felt like a three. Okay, so how do I make it? Getting to ten today is probably unrealistic for my horse. So how about I make it a three? A three and a half? Or four? What do I need to do to make it a four? Right. And if it’s better than a four. Fabulous. But if you least if you get to a three and a half, you know that you’ve made progress for that day. Yeah.
Tonya Johnston [00:56:04] Yeah, That’s a good tool. Definitely. Yeah, I like that.
Andrea Waldo [00:56:08] And the reality is, some days your horse just isn’t having it. You know, they’ve just gotten up and they’re like, sorry, don’t want to play today. And you know, if you’re getting nowhere, then it’s okay to say today is not the day I’m going to do something that I know we can do and then try again tomorrow, right?
Tonya Johnston [00:56:25] Exactly. Exactly. And I and I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with folks, whether it’s when it’s time to sell a horse, when it’s time to put the horse back in the barn, what have you. And how do they not feel like a failure when they do that. And I always say it’s you’re showing your strength. You’re showing your knowledge when you make choices like that, right? You’re either it’s knowledge of self or knowledge of performance or whatever it might be. It is based in, you know, intelligence and being present and sort of. Having your eyes wide open and making a choice like that, you know? So. Okay. But that we could talk about for hours. Yeah.
Andrea Waldo [00:57:06] Right.
Tonya Johnston [00:57:07] There’s a. Lot. There’s a lot of that. A lot going on there. But I want to get to our let’s get to another listener question. This is from another a different Sara in New Mexico. And she asks, How important do you consider visualization of your ride? Slash goals? Can you conquer showing snafu’s by visualizing? I would say absolutely. And and visualization is paramount. It’s such a you know, there’s people who say to me, why don’t visualize because of X, Y, Z, and we’ll kind of work through what their challenges are with it because. And you know. Well, at least try it, You know what I’m saying? Like, if I have a client who comes to me and says, I hate visualization, well, we’ll break it down. We’ll look at how they’re doing it, what methods they’re using, and find if we can find a way for them to access the skill because it is so potent and so powerful. It’s it’s basically it’s like playing poker, leaving cards on the table. Right. There’s just so much there. There’s so much both in actual skill attainment as well as emotional stability and groundedness that you can rehearse in different environments and situations that get you so ready and so confident. There’s this there’s just it’s it’s endless really, what it can provide. So as far as conquering, showing snafu’s, you know, again, you want to think about not so much fixing the problems as much as riding the solutions, you know, thinking about what what does it what’s the opposite of this particular snafu that I find myself in repeatedly? You know, how do I get there? How do I do it at home? Maybe if there’s something that keeps showing up shows and not so much at home, really asking yourself how it feels when you do it correctly, how your where your mind is, how early you’re preparing for a movement or for a bending line or whatever it is, and then really feeling yourself execute at a very. Small level. Oh, okay. Wait a second. This is how this is how it feels. And the more you can then. A going back. I mean, this wraps full circle, Andrea, to what you were talking about. A repetition. When you feel yourself riding effectively through those moments that typically bring snafu’s, you’re just building in the belief that you can do it. You’re building in that muscle memory. You know, research shows across so many different sports how improvement happens through the use of of visualization and a program that includes visualization.
Andrea Waldo [01:00:06] Yeah, I’m wondering what you think about this, because what I’ve found is I have a lot of people who ask me, what if I can’t visualize it going, well, I just can’t get there. One of my suggestions that that worked for me in a situation, what is to visualize the problem starting to happen and then you solving it? Mm hmm. So they can’t quite get to oh, I’m going to picture everything going smoothly, but the problem starts to happen. Okay, Now picture what you want to do about it. And then the other piece that I’ve done with that is sort of the idea of you don’t have to like the the sitting down and visualizing is is huge. And there’s also the what I call like the ten second video clip that you can do in kind of in the moment. Like if you’re approaching what you consider a problem situation. I always use the scary corner of the indoor as an example because every indoor has one and you’re worried that your horse is going to spook. And so you do what we all do when we’re afraid something’s going to happen. You lean forward and grab a hold of the reins, and then your horse goes, Oh my God, there’s know, there’s there must be monsters in the corner because you’re scared. Yeah. And so I always suggest to people, right before you get to that corner, picture them going through the corner quietly and successfully. And what tends to happen is because as as you know, when the pictures in their mind, their body responds to that in the moment. And so they ride a little more smoothly and they give the horse the opportunity to be successful there. So I’ve sort of found that those two things are helpful editions in general, too, because a lot of people have said, Well, what if I can’t picture it perfectly? And I’m very much as a cross-country rider, I’m very much about, you have to know how to solve it when things go to hell in a handbasket, not just how to do it perfectly. You have to know how to get yourself out of trouble, right? And so I’ve found that visualizing, solving the problem also helps people to feel a little more powerful and not quite so helpless in the face of whatever that snafu is.
Tonya Johnston [01:02:06] Right? Yeah, And visualization. I absolutely agree with, you know, the solving you know, my focus with focus is on being effective in your visualization. Not perfect. So yes, you don’t suddenly go from a horse with a sticky lead change to like one that’s like, you know, smooth as glass. You’re really thinking about what do I do to create a lead change? Well, this horse needs me to really be active, you know, with with my aides to get true straightness. And, you know, then it’s whatever, you know, that the pieces that it just like you said, what exactly am I doing to help be part of a solution? And I would say also with visualization, I think people put it on way too much of a pedestal. It’s just another ride, right? And it’s a ride where what you’re doing is you’re really, really getting clear about your focus and where you want your attention and how you want it to feel. But at the end of the day, it’s just another ride. If you visualize, of course, five times, five times, you’re going to have slightly different experiences. But the aim is that you’re riding your plan so well each time, even though it may have little individual differences, you’re just getting sort of your wheels turning. And that blueprint written of this is generally how I want this to go, how I want it to feel, the aides I’m going to use to create us, you know, being able to navigate what is being asked of us here. But each each visualization only stands on its own to the extent that you were present and you rode as much, you rode as much of that plan to the best of your ability. And that’s it, right? So it’s just it’s just like when you have three times to do something in a lesson, usually the third time is better. Well, why is it better? Because you’re more familiar with the demands that you’re facing. You’ve practiced your answers, and by the third time, all those pieces fall into place. Well, that’s the same what we’re talking about, you know, with our visualization, like, let’s do let’s visualize the first few times so that when you get in the show ring or the dressage court or whatever it might be. It feels like the third time.
Andrea Waldo [01:04:26] Right? Great way to put it.
Tonya Johnston [01:04:28] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So awesome. All right, good. So those are our listener questions. So thanks so much to our our listeners who who sent in questions. I appreciate all of you. Thanks so much for reaching out to me. And thank you so much to Andrea for joining me today. That was so much fun.
Andrea Waldo [01:04:50] Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. It was great.
Tonya Johnston [01:04:52] Yeah. Yeah. Love your book. And do you have an audio? Version of your book?
Andrea Waldo [01:04:58] Yes. Yeah, I just finally got uploaded to Audible, so it is good on audible.com now.
Tonya Johnston [01:05:04] Awesome. That’s awesome. Terrific. I’m going to. That is a goal of mine for this year. And people have been asking me for years to do an audiobook, so I’m. You’ve heard it here first. I am committing to getting that done this year.
Andrea Waldo [01:05:18] That’s great.
Tonya Johnston [01:05:19] Yeah. And I’m sure people will be excited too to download that. Andrea And thank you and have a great 2023.
Andrea Waldo [01:05:26] Thank you. Same to you.
Tonya Johnston [01:07:07] You can find the links to today’s guests and the show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow the Plaidcast on all of the social medias as just search for the plaid horse. You can follow me on Facebook at Tonya Johnston, mental skills coach and on Instagram at Inside Your Ride. Please rate and review our shows on iTunes. Five Star reviews Help people discover our show. And if you enjoy our conversation, please share it with your friends. If you have a question about your mental skills for riding, please message me on Facebook. Inside Your Ride is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book. You can find out more about my mental skills coaching on my website at www.tonyajohnston.com Remember, focus is a skill. Use it to make every ride great.