Plaidcast 367: Tonya Johnston’s Inside Your Ride with Kirsten Jones by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 367 Tonya Johnston's Inside Your Ride Kirsten Jones

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Tonya Johnston, Mental Skills Coach speaks with peak performance and sport parenting coach Kirsten Jones, who is the author of the recently released book “Raising Empowered Athletes”. Tonya and Kirsten discuss tools for all athletes to be their best as well as best practices for supporting your kids or friends as they pursue their riding aspirations. Tonya also shares a strategy called “riding with bookends” that helps strengthen your pre-ride routine and your focus in the moment. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!

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Tonya Johnston 
[00:00:34] This is episode 367 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 speak with peak performance and sport parenting coach Kirsten Jones, who is author of the recently released book Raising Empowered Athletes. We discuss tools for all athletes to be their best, as well as best practices for supporting your kids or friends as they pursue their riding aspirations. I also share a strategy called riding with bookends that helps strengthen your pre-ride routine and your focus in the moment.

Tonya Johnston [00:03:33] Thank you so much for joining me today. Wow. I don’t know where you are in the world, but I will say that we are getting some crazy weather here in California. We’ve had so much rain. I hope everyone is staying safe. I went out for a very ill advised walk with my dog in the forest, during one of the heaviest storms we had in this past week, and zero out of ten do not recommend. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, I you know how you get you just in your mind, you’re like, oh, it’ll be fine. And you get out there. And I was like, looking around and I was thinking, this is 100% not fine. And so luckily all was well and got back and everything, but I went out, on these trails we have right here by my house, by our house. And I saw some huge oak trees that had come down a couple even across the trail, like, had to bushwhack around some trees that had come down on the trail. And I was really recognizing, like, I’m so glad I wasn’t there. So if you follow me on Instagram at Inside Your Ride, you might have seen some pictures of some of the trees, but yikes. So. I hope you’re staying healthy and safe no matter where you are. Mother nature is certainly having a bit of a time this winter. I’m looking forward. I keep every day it’s sunny and it’s a little bit, you know, it’s staying light. A little bit later. I’m like, come on, son. But. So how is your winter horse showing going? How have you been able to get out a bit this year? How’s your riding going? What mindset skills have you been using in your preparation routine? I’m wondering, like what things you maybe have added over the winter to your routine, maybe to freshen it up for 2024? You know, I’d love to hear from you. Please send me a message. Let me know what’s been helping you the most. If I’ve shared something on a podcast or you came across something on your own and like, oh, I’ve really started trying to do this. Love to hear from you. You can always reach me. My website, Tonya johntson.com or through any of my social channels. And so personally, as far as winter goes, I’m very lucky. To be headed to thermal soon to kick off our show year, and it will be our first show back since June last year, and I’m super excited that Cosmo is ready to go and can’t wait to get back at it. So please, if you see me, say hi, I’ll be in thermal, these next for some of the next week’s like, coming up here. And I’d love to see you and I really, I mean, I love doing the podcast, and I also really love hearing feedback. So there’s something you like, don’t like suggestions? I’m always open, because I wish I could see all of you as I sit here and tape the show. But I’m just excited to go back and get out and get get Cosmo back and going. And it’s really it feels like I’m looking forward to going on a trip with my best friend. So I think that’s what kind of horse shows are for us, is just getting to travel with our horses and see our friends. And you know, that to me is like such a huge part of it. And okay, so let’s go ahead and. Look forward to the rest of the show. So today I’m excited to share one of my favorite mindset tools called riding with Bookends, and I’ll explain what that is and how to do it at the end. But right now, we’re going to start off with a conversation with Kirsten Jones, who is a performance and sport parenting coach, and we’ll get right to our conversation right after these messages.

Tonya Johnston [00:09:33] Kirsten Jones is a peak performance and sports parenting coach. She is co-host of the Hashtag Raising Athletes podcast with Susie Walton and is a motivational speaker. Her first parenting book, Raising Empowered Athletes, launched in August of 2023 from Triumph Books. Kirsten is a Hall of Fame D-1 volleyball player from William and Mary and a 15 year Nike executive. Her clients include teen athletes and their parents, where she helps them learn how to reach their goals by releasing their limitations. Please note that I found our conversation to be inspiring for all athletes, even if you don’t have children. Welcome, Kirsten. Thank you so much for joining me today. 

Kirsten Jones [00:10:20] Thank you for having me, Tonya. I’m excited to be here. 

Tonya Johnston [00:10:22] Yes, I’m excited. I came across your your book Raising Empowered Athletes, and I was so excited to to get it. So I ordered it right away. And I really, really like it. So congrats. 

Kirsten Jones [00:10:34] Thank you so much. Seven years in the making. So wow. 

Tonya Johnston [00:10:38] That’s awesome. Yay. And and you have a podcast.

Kirsten Jones [00:10:42] Similar podcast is called Hashtag Raising Athlete with Susie Walton, who’s also a family and parenting coach. And we’ve been doing it for five years now. So the book idea came along about seven years ago. And then I’ve been kind of marinating on that. And then as I do the podcast and have interviews and, and, you know, meeting different people, it was great fodder for the book. So. 

Tonya Johnston [00:11:03] Yeah. That’s fantastic. Awesome. All right. So I think that it’s it’s so I think that books that come out of that kind of length of experience and what you know what I mean, like boots on the ground are so useful that it, it marinates for a long time. So like, it’s really it’s really full of really, applicable and meaningful and everyday examples that are really important, I think, for parents to be aware of. 

Kirsten Jones [00:11:35] Thank you. Yeah. I believe you write the book that you wanted to read. 

Tonya Johnston [00:11:41] 100%. 

Kirsten Jones [00:11:43] My joke kind of not joke story goes, when you get pregnant, everyone hands you what to expect when you’re expecting and you think, oh, I’m going to be the best parent ever!. 

Tonya Johnston [00:11:54] The Bible. Yes, yes, it. 

Kirsten Jones [00:11:55] It is the Bible. And for three pregnancies I read it cover to cover every single time. And you felt so confident. And then you get to kick n chase or T-ball and there’s some Yahoo standing next to you on the sidelines going, you’re not doing this rec thing, are you? Like, we’ve got a private coach. Like we’re we’re already going to Sweden this summer and you start feeling the FOMO of like, wait, I, I played in college, I played volleyball in college, D1 volleyball, and then I worked at Nike for 15 years, both in Europe and at world headquarters. And then and I married an athlete. And so as we started raising our own athletes, we started looking at each other going, what? What is going on here? Like, yeah, not not the childhood we had where I grew up in Montana. We rode horses in the summer, we played basketball in the fall, we played the trumpet in the winter, like you just did. What? Whatever was in front of you. And now kids are coming out of delivery room with, you know, this kid’s going to this school, and I’m raising a football player. I’m raising a, you know, whatever a baseball player. And it’s it’s a lot of pressure, a lot of a lot of pressure for these kids. 

Tonya Johnston [00:13:02] Yeah. And I think, I think that it’s some of the principles you talk about are very applicable across sports. I mean all of them really as far as how to support a young athlete and how to talk about, you know, their journey versus, you know, making that distinction, I think is super important that every, every athlete and every child has their own journey. And I want you and I during this conversation, I’m hoping we can talk about some of the parenting tips that you have. But also, I think there is such crossover, because I know a lot of our listeners are not necessarily raising young athletes and maybe our athletes themselves. Right. And I think there’s a lot of overlap to how you speak with your friends and how you support your friends, like going into the ring, coming out of the ring, being at shows together. I think a lot of that, a lot of those best practices and sort of ideas around mastery and, embracing, you know, failure and learning from the process, I think are super powerful in both in both of those circumstance. You know what I mean, both as a parent and then also as a, as a either teammate or barn mate or friend. I think a lot of the principles apply in the same way. 

Kirsten Jones [00:14:21] Yeah. So when I started, I got I worked for Nike for 15 years. My favorite job there was actually running a basically an internal MBA program where we helped everybody from the most entry level person in global footwear, all the way up to the senior one. Learn about all of these concepts of leadership and teamwork and learning how to win, and learning how to lose and how to breathe in a great product, which was a parallel to what happened on the on the court, on the horse, as as an athlete growing up. And then I got my life coaching certification through a Tony Robbins program. And as I started thinking about who do who do I serve? I, I want to serve everybody because, yeah, we are all athletes. We are all people looking to do things better. And I’m and we know better. We do better. When I was getting, you know, kind of getting focused on laser focused on what I really wanted to do, the one entrepreneur that I worked with, she said, you know, the less well known you are, the more specific you should be. And, you know, sports and and that’s true. I raised an athlete. I grew up doing that. I work with athletes. So that’s always kind of been a through line. And when I speak to parents, when I speak to anybody, adults, I work, I speak at companies, I speak at hospitals. It’s this that, as you said, Tonya, it’s the same principle. We’re all trying to learn how to again overcome obstacles, be more resilient, be grittier, learn from our mistakes. And the best athletes, entrepreneurs, leaders, artists I know are those who who embrace that and learn from that. 

Tonya Johnston [00:16:01] Yeah for sure. And so so as speaker. All right. So let’s let me start by asking you a question on the parenting side. As far as you know, what would you say some of your top strategies are for. You know, parents as far as raising that empowered athlete, raising someone who kind of knows who they are, what the sport means to them, how to show up and sort of bring their best on on any given day. What what are some of your. Top tips for that. 

Kirsten Jones [00:16:37] So when they’re young and I say young, is anybody under the age of 13. They should be sampling and sampling a lot of things. I coached little nine and ten year old girls, and parents will come to me hat in hand. I Coach volleyball. Oh, I’m so sorry. She’s never played before. Or she’s also got cotillion. She’s also got piano. She’s also got. Is it okay? Yes, absolutely. They should be trying a lot of different things. And my only rule is when you start something, you finish it. You sign up for whatever, a three month block of lessons. After a month. You don’t like it. Okay, well, we’re just going to finish this session, and then we’re going to figure out what else you want to do and be, again, the best athletes, the best pro athletes. 91% of NFL athletes played multiple sports growing up because they think differently. Their bodies don’t get worn out. They don’t get overwhelmed. They don’t get anxiety. They have different interests in life. And I’m talking creative interest. I’m talking music and art and, you know, cooking and all these different things. So when they’re young, sampling, I think is the best thing they can do. As we get a little bit older then yes. That as, as you’re, you know, 14, 15, 16, I mean, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not specializing in anything till you’re into late puberty. And they call late puberty 17 or 18 years old. And of course, that’s quite comical because of course, we don’t know anybody who can afford to specialize at 18. But when you look at it that way, from a medical standpoint, that’s what they recommend. Parents, as much as you can put the guardrails up that find the coaching, find the the leaders that are going to allow your kid to try different things, because ultimately that’s going to be and it doesn’t have to be on a competitive level. Like my one kid surfs. He never he’s never not going to go try and join the surf. You know, the Pro League. But it’s a great outlet, right? My other kid plays guitar for fun. It’s just a release. So even if you’re all about equestrian, even if it’s all about the horse all the time, they need other things that help them gain agency over who they are. And those are skills that are learned by taking care of yourself, by having chores, by, you know, participating in the family that’s, you know, right now we raise kids, we’re like, oh, we don’t have time. You’ve got to get a 4 or 5. So, so that you can get into this school. We’ve got to, you know, be at sports till 10:00 at night. You don’t have time to participate in having a job or having, you know, any chores. And and what we’re doing is robbing our kids of the experience of, of learning about who they are and what they what they’re good at and growing their own competence. And I like to say competence build confidence. And the more are we allow them to have things that, again, doesn’t have to be anything that involves a trophy, but just things that allow them to say, hey, I made a peach pie for the first time ever. You know, I walk the I played with the kid across the street who’s five years younger than me. I taught him a skill that he doesn’t know. Like, you get to be a mentor. They get a they get to teach others. That’s when we grow and that’s when we learn about who we are. 

Tonya Johnston [00:19:59] Yeah, and I would I totally hear you and I agree with you. And I think that it it that’s where also resiliency comes from is sort of knowing yourself in a in a multiple level ways, right? Not just through the same sport and the same lens all the time. And I would think, I think that even athletes who are adults who are very strongly I mean, you know, riding is such a passion that it takes up so much of our time, like any sport that you’re really, you know, involved in and competitive with. But I would say also for, for anyone of any age to have other interests or other areas of their life where they have that beginner mind, where it’s really just sort of, oh, I’m just here, I’m showing up, I’m learning new things, like just letting yourself be present in. In different ways of. In different experiences where you get to, oh, I can I learn this, can I, can I polish this, can this be something like I develop and and nurture like whether it’s a skill like, I mean even just something like I started playing pickleball like half the planet, right? But I didn’t know how to play. I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing. And, you know, once I think we’re good at something, we forget sometimes how important it is to make sure you have some of what you’re talking about, that balance of having some other things in our life that maybe were new at, maybe that are eye opening and, and develop us in different ways. 

Kirsten Jones [00:21:32] 100%. Susie and I like to talk about on the podcast to kids are being raised in such a perfectionist society with social media, what you’re seeing online is, of course, nobody’s putting the hair not made up. The bad days, the ugly, you know, the times you failed. They’re only showing you the curated view of their life. And what our kids are feeling is all this pressure. Well, look who won one at the last competition. And look who’s doing this. And they don’t feel like they’re allowed to, quote unquote, fail. And parents and and you know, mentors model that. And like Susie loves to say which I completely agree with is if you are perfect and you you also are driven by that, get off at the wrong exit once in a while, make a mistake and allow them to see you making an error. Gosh, I didn’t do that well, right? Like around the dinner table. Wow. It took me seven years to write this book, and I pitched it to over 100 publishers. Like, gee, kids, it’s, you know, like it’s okay that it’s not going well. And how curious are you to stick with it and showing them that, okay, it doesn’t mean that you need to get the the, you know, win the class every single time. It’s okay if you fell off the horse. It’s okay if it didn’t go the way you planned it. Like we’re more curious about how quickly you’re going to get back on it. 

Tonya Johnston [00:22:51] Right. And what and and potentially also like asking yourself what did I learn from that that I’m going to use to my advantage. Right. You know. Yeah. And, and and what you just mentioned actually makes me want to jump topics slightly, which is something that I heard in one of your podcasts. I listened to a couple of your podcasts and you had a coach on. Who is talking about that concept of practicing ugly? Right. And and I think that I think that’s so important for all of us to remind ourselves that that’s what the practices for. And I think in our sport particularly, obviously you have the horse involved. So you’re not trying to do things that are super crazy or outlandish or, you know, you know, you’re not trying to, like, confuse your horse in any way. But I think just really creating a culture and an atmosphere in your lessons and hopefully at your barn where it really is for trying things, it really is for, gosh, can I, you know, stay out of the top, like for this entire round and see, like, how do I how do I manage my horse’s stride there like I’m used to? Maybe someone I’m someone who sits in the saddle all the time. And maybe I’m going to try this because I want to sort of expand. And it’s hard to be in that vulnerable place. And so I think that idea of sort of suspending that perfectionism, particularly in practice on purpose, is so healthy. I really liked how you guys talked about that. 

Kirsten Jones [00:24:24] Yeah. There’s a wonderful book, by the guy who was the actually, chess champion called the Art of learning. And he talks about beginner mindset a lot, and he also talks about practicing dirty or practicing. You know, that’s the best way we learn. And again, unfortunately these kids are put in pressure situations where you got to make the top team where you if you’re not if you’re not winning then you’re going to lose points and you’re going to fall out of this bracket. Like there feels like there’s no time to not do well. Yeah. And and you know, again, the probably the most famous example is Tiger Woods. He had just won whatever 3 or 4 majors and his he didn’t like his stroke. So he broke it down and completely learned relearned how to how to swing the club that would actually help him hit the ball farther. And I shared another story in the book of a dear friend of mine who played at Stanford. She got the full ride to Stanford, and when she got there, she was an All-American in high school volleyball. And the Stanford volleyball coach was like, you’re actually goofy footed, which means you’re not even taking off the right way to hit the ball. And he’s like, I don’t even know how you hit the ball as well as you do because you’re actually going against momentum. And she had to relearn her whole approach. And as she talks about it, she’s like I said, was that a big deal? No, not at all. Right. Where some people are like, well, this is working. I have to stick with this. Yeah. But the most growth mindset, you know, people are the ones that really can expand what, what’s possible for them because they kind of let go of ego and embrace, you know, what can be. 

Tonya Johnston [00:26:02] I was I was just going to say the hard part. And I think in any sport, even in practice you have eyes on you all the time, whether it’s like friends at the barn, whether it’s people that are acquaintances, other people, you know what I mean? Like that ego is such a seductive like whisper in the ear of like, okay, well, don’t look like a dork. Like, you know what I mean? Like, it’s it’s so it’s so hard to remind yourself. Wait, this is my safe place. This is where I am going to try a couple of new things I am going to focus on, you know, maybe some different things than I normally would in the show ring. And that’s okay. That’s I’m giving myself that permission. I think consciously giving yourself that permission and even saying it out loud, if that makes you more comfortable, like saying it to your coach, like, all right, I’m going to try this. I feel really, actually very vulnerable about it, but I’m going to try it. Can be helpful just to acknowledge it. Right. So that it’s not just the whisper. 

Kirsten Jones [00:26:58] You know, maybe having a phrase let’s practice dirty today or let’s whatever, whatever that phrase is that gives you that permission to say, this isn’t going to be perfect. In fact, we kind of hope that it doesn’t go well so we can learn from it. 

Tonya Johnston [00:27:12] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just so just yeah, especially I think. And I think sometimes that plays in and this goes more into the training, of our horses sometimes of, you know, sometimes you, you we all, tend to help the horse too much, let’s say. And it’s sort of like, no, you got to let them learn too. So if you’re always sort of polishing and hiding it and, and acting as if you’re in front of a judge, then maybe you’re preventing your horse from learning things that they could be learning in that moment, too.

Kirsten Jones [00:27:45] They are so smart. Yeah, they read everything we’re doing and our energy and I mean, I know we want to talk about mindset, but. Right, like you being at one with yourself is going to allow that horse to perform at the next level because he or she knows when you’re not. Right. 

Tonya Johnston [00:28:04] No 100%. Absolutely. Is there such a mirror for us all the time. Yeah. okay. So let me ask you a couple of things that I think do sort of run very parallel. And you can correct me if what you think. But this I want to talk about best practices around. Parents being at a show like with their kids. How can they best support them both before and before they go, or get on their horse or go in the ring? I mean, hopefully the parent isn’t right at the back gate with them. That’s sort of usually the coach and the trainers domain. But how can they best help support the preparation? And then particularly when they come out of the ring, what are. Let’s talk about best practices because I think for for parents. Handling and supporting their kids. There’s a lot of parallels between also like friends supporting friends, like when you say what? Like what do you emphasize? What kind of questions can you ask to help them really sort of bring out the best parts of what they thought about their ride, much like that, and that having nothing to do about what you thought about it. 

Kirsten Jones [00:29:20] For example, for example, just just a little example. Yeah, yeah. I like to say so before there’s any, before we step into the house and it’s on fire having a conversation away from the ring before the event. Yeah. How how would you like to receive feedback? And if the kid or person says, you know what? When I’m in the moment, I don’t want any feedback. 

Tonya Johnston [00:29:45] Oh, yeah. 

Kirsten Jones [00:29:46] Okay. Great to know or I don’t care. Say whatever you want or something in between. But what happens? And you nailed it. Which is what we start to do is interject what we think they want to hear. Right. And sometimes that’s not what they need or want in the moment. And we get to fight flight or freeze. Right. So if you’re in a very stressful situation, on a scale of 1 to 10, you know, if we’re about a one, a one to a seven, we’re open, potentially open for some feedback. If we’re in an eight, 9 or 10 like we’re already, the cortisol is gone through the roof and there’s there is it there. It doesn’t matter what you say. It’s not going to be heard anyway. So when you think about it that way, I mean, the most important thing I talk about is the car ride home. And again, hopefully they’re not waiting at the gate. Hopefully they’re not there when they’re going into the ring and coming out that they have some onboarding time to be with their own thoughts, because that’s what matters. And then when they exit the ring, have some time to decompress from that. And then in the car ride home. Wow, that was so fun to watch you ride today, right? How how does that feel? Or to the friend who you just saw that was amazing. Or how did you know? How did you feel and allowed them to say, you know what was on my best ride? I really don’t want to talk about it or wow, that sucked. But what did you see? You know, and maybe they’ll ask for feedback. But assuming that we have the answers and that they want to do them in that moment is probably one of the biggest mistakes that I see. You know, and then is it judging the judges or the judging the other riders, or is it giving feedback about it’s not relevant and it’s not helpful? 

Tonya Johnston [00:31:39] Yeah, 100%. And I really I talk about that as well about it’s like let’s, let’s preload some solutions by having that conversation like the Monday before the horse show. So you’re not in the heat of the moment, like how can I best support you, you know, asking those kind of questions. And certainly as the child ages at the job, your job basically becomes sort of transitioning between being more of a manager and to being more of a consultant and letting them have more autonomy with their preparation routine. And you know, what kind of food they want to have that day. And, you know, all of that. It’s it’s natural and healthy and actually best if you really recognize, hey, what my kid needed at ten is going to be much different than what my child needs at 14, right? But I think having it, having a conversation before then you’re before you’re in the moment is so important. And for parents to really listen to their kids, because sometimes they have that conversation and that their parent gets in the heat of the moment and is just forgetful of, oh, wait a second, I’m completely stepping out of my of my role right now, or the boundaries we set up or what have you. You know, everyone’s doing their best, but in the heat of the moment, sometimes it’s going to take a gentle reminder from the kid or from a friend or, hey, you know, can you remind me to, you know, tell you two things I really liked in my round, you know, because I might get focused on, like, being critical or, you know what I mean? Like. 

Kirsten Jones [00:33:16] Yeah. And parents, in your defense and friends in your, you know, the people who have been doing this for a long time, you know, I’m hearing numbers anywhere. I when I wrote the book $20 Billion Business, but probably closer to 30 to $40 billion. We are investing so much money, so many resources. You know, when I was growing up, yeah, my parents spent some money on sports, but it wasn’t to this level. So I get so I’m totally understanding of you’re all in, right. Like and you’ve spent every waking hour and you’ve given up your Friday nights to drive to the, you know, the event the night before and your weekends are gone and all of that. So it’s not without cause and it’s come. Understandable. Yeah, but the best thing you can do is check yourself and like. I mean, I’ve had situations where my daughter particularly didn’t get a play a clue all the way to Kansas City for a volleyball tournament. She didn’t touch the floor. In fact, the coach put the smallest girl on the floor in the front row in front of her, even like to the point that it was like, we don’t understand that. Did I feel great? No. Was it upsetting? Yes. Like things will happen. But this isn’t about me. Yeah, and I think the best. The best parents I see are the ones that can. And if it means walking away from the ring and going to the car, or going to get a drink or going to talk to a friend, I, you know, I say take a lap. And that’s what if you need to go take a lap, take a lap, but don’t talk to your kid about that, then that is just not helpful. Talk to again your spouse or a friend who’s there to watch and vent and then be like, okay, gosh, that didn’t go the way we thought did it. 

Tonya Johnston [00:34:59] Yeah. And also and I, I agree with you. And I also think that there are so many ways to give feedback on process and how your friend is handling the day or how your child is handling the day as a whole rather than just the two minutes they were in the ring or you know what I mean? Like that. Like, wow, I really appreciated like how much preparation you did. And it really I was just really admiring how you set yourself up to go in the ring today. It looked like you were really covering your bases and I was so impressed, you know, that that that honoring those that full spectrum of what the competition requires is a really valuable thing for parents to do. And I think that friends can do that for friends as well, to remind each other of, like, wait, what? We’re here for a lot more than just, you know, that ribbon or that one score. Like, this is a this is sort of a real lifelong pursuit and passion for a lot of people. And so really honoring honoring everyone’s 100% commitment and dedication to all the different aspects of getting themselves in the competition ring is, I think, important. 

Kirsten Jones [00:36:16] Yeah. And as you touched on, Tanya, to the the spectrum of, again, a certain point, you may walk away from horses and you may not ride, but what are you good at? What are the tools that you’re, you’re getting right now. And they start with what are you doing the night before? What is your evening routine? Are you visualizing your ride? Have you gotten a good sleep? How much are you sleeping? Are you. You know, if you’re a teenager, you should be getting, you know, ten hours of sleep. If you’re, you know, if you’re an adult, you you you need 6 to 8 hours of sleep. How much are you meditating or praying or visualizing or journaling about what you’re creating? I have a huge belief, and I know you said you want to talk about it. Maybe you can jump in here about remembering the future. I like to call this exercise that I love to do with clients, and I’ve seen it work so beautifully, so many times. And what it is, is our brains are so powerful they don’t know the difference. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between you thinking about something like what I would like to do, and that I’ve actually already done it. So you even just writing down about your ride. And I came into the ring and I had my favorite boots on, and I could smell that saddle. And we had that bit, that bit that I, that my horse, just like you can smell it, you can taste it, you can feel it and that’s it. It’s got to be super detailed. Don’t like. Well, I went and I had a clean ride and it was great. No, I want to I want you to get into the minutia, get into the weeds about how it feels. What are you listening to? What are you hearing? What are you smelling? What did you eat that morning? Like, get into all of those details. And I’ve had multiple clients. Many, many now talk to me about what happens the day after they do that exercise. And they’re like, here’s some. That was really weird. It was like easy. And I said, well, what happened is you got out of your head and you got into your body and you just allow you got into a flow state. And that came by not being in fight or flight, but you’d already done the preparation the night before, and then you could just put the car in neutral and let the partnership do the work. 

Tonya Johnston [00:38:39] That’s so interesting. So, so. So you’re suggesting that they write this script out of this remembering the future, the the day or night before an event or a specific. 

Kirsten Jones [00:38:51] I mean, you can write it. You can write it any time. But yeah, I think it’s super powerful the closer you are to it. And then here’s that. Here’s the super power. Here’s if you really want to get like 110% is reading it out loud. And if you read it out loud to yourself, nobody has to see it. Only you. Yeah, but if you read it out loud to yourself and it kind of almost makes you want to throw up like it’s like, oh my gosh, can you imagine that actually happening? And then, you know, you’re on to something. Yeah. If you read it and you’re like, yeah, whatever. And I had a clean round and whatever, I didn’t, you know, like and you’re kind of ho hum about it. It means you’re not lighting up around what it is you’re creating. But when our brain and our, our wishes and our, our vision are what are what in our why are aligned the how appears. And the mistake we often make is we get focused on the how. Well how am I going to get the ribbon. Well how am I going to get to the next level. Well how am I going to get that score. The how is not your concern. Your concern is what am I doing it? What am I doing and why am I doing it? And the clearer your why is, then every day, it’s when I get in that ring. I had a client last week. Volleyball client? Talk about what could you do differently? She’s like, well, I could get to practice 15 minutes earlier because if I was there earlier, I’d be more organized. And if I was more organized and I would be able to be a better teammate. Like, there are, you know, little things that you can do that completely change the needle. You, whoever your favorite. And I always love to do this with clients to show me your favorite athlete. What does she or he do? Oh, well, they’re like they’re one with their horse. They have this amazing. You can just see the the confidence and the energy and the. Oh. And why how do you think they do that? Well, they’re in the bar and all the time and they’re, they’re doing the extra reps and they’re doing the mental. Oh right. Like success leaves clues. And the more we lean into that and the more curious you are about that, the easier it unfolds. 

Tonya Johnston [00:40:58] Sure. Absolutely. 100%. And I think what you’re saying about when you’re, when you’re doing the exercise of remembering the future, I think one of the really powerful things is that you’re visiting the emotional experience of. Having it happen so that it’s not something that you’re reaching for. It’s something that you are imagining that success or that mastery or that flow state and and what it feels like with your horse and how excited you are to have accomplished a goal you’re really letting yourself. In a in a really robust and full way. Wow. That you know, you’re like almost like soaking in it in. And so it’s not black and white. It’s really just so vibrant and and hopefully is creating some of those emotions so that there’s that you’re just, you’re reducing the distance between what you’re imagining and what you’re actually doing. 

Kirsten Jones [00:42:02] Yes. And and I get well, here’s, ‘What if I’ve never done that?’ How am I how do what am I supposed to do? Oh that feels think of a success. And it doesn’t have to be on your horse. It could be in another part of your life. Yeah, like you did well in school. You had that speaking engagement that you did really well or whatever. Some other place you’ve created that you’ve tasted that before and it’s, it’s that feeling of, oh, I understood I wasn’t I mean, I always give the example of when you see Beyonce on stage, she’s not looking for the words, she’s just singing. Right. Like she just is. Yeah. And that’s how you are when you’re one with the animal because you’ve done all the work, you’re not like, oh, and then what am I going to do? And I’ve got to change canter I got go change leads or like yeah you’re not thinking. You’re just yeah. Living and enjoying that moment. And that’s comes back to preparation mentally physically emotional preparation. 

Tonya Johnston [00:43:00] Yeah. Yeah. No I like that I like that remembering the future. Absolutely. 

Kirsten Jones [00:43:05] You and I had this conversation this morning at 6 a.m.. I get up, I meditate for 20 minutes. I have a white lab. She comes and lays on my lap and we meditate together. And then I journal about my day as if it’s already happened. Wow. How lucky am I thinking to talk to Tonya today and so excited to talk about horses. And it takes me back to my youth, right? Yes I did, I actually got excited thinking about having this phone call now this this podcast. Now I’m just living it out, right? Like, oh, what am I going to say? And how am I going to know? Yeah, it’s going to be. Yeah. And if you know, again, you want to do more and it doesn’t have to be war and peace and you don’t have to do it every day. Atomic habits is a great book. And he talks about in there. It’s called the you know, the power of to like just be able to do don’t you know if you do it on Monday but you missed Tuesday, then do it Wednesday. If you do it Wednesday, then you miss Thursday, then you do. I mean, even if you only did it every other day, you’re still doing 50% more than what you were doing. 

Tonya Johnston [00:44:14] Right? Right. 

Kirsten Jones [00:44:15] Right. And we are talking about making 1% improvements, right? Like, oh, if you could make 1% a day. So think of it in little itty bitty bites. And when I miss, you know, there are weeks that I miss because I’m traveling or or what? I love you, I bless you, I forgive you, I really it’s okay. We’re not looking for perfection. But if I keep coming back to the journal, if I keep coming back to the the. You know what I call like a little morning meditation, a journaling exercise that helps me think and dream bigger about what it is I’m creating. 

Tonya Johnston [00:44:51] Yeah. That’s awesome. I love it very inspiring. 

Kirsten Jones [00:44:54] And it’s available to all of us!

Tonya Johnston [00:44:55] Yes, yes. 

Kirsten Jones [00:44:57] Get a journal and and and maybe you say, well, I’m not a morning person and I do this with teenagers. I get it right. They. Yeah, they’re there and they’re chemically wired to be night owls. So there’s nothing wrong with you. So do it at night. I had a client last year. Who? Who D1, The best volleyball player in the country. And he’s like, I’m all amped up the night before the match, I can’t sleep. Okay, let’s put your. So figure out when works for you. It’s not about the time of day. It’s not about exactly how I do it. It’s figuring out what works for you and when it works for you and and and playing with it. It’s like a sandbox, like, just try different tools. Yeah. And that’s what I work with clients on, as I’m sure you do too. Right? Is it’s there’s no wrong way to do this. 

Tonya Johnston [00:45:39] Right. You have to discover and be curious. I mean, the curiosity is the thing that I always talk about. The only requirement is that you stay curious, even if you find an ingredient or a recipe for yourself of like, this is how I get myself the best. It’s not going to stay the same forever. You have to stay curious for your whole career and ask yourself, what am I doing to best support myself each day? And could it? Could I change it? Do I need something fresh? Do I need something new? Do I need new ideas, you know, and just constantly being engaged with that in the same way you’re engaged with learning your sport, then you’re really on to something. 

Kirsten Jones [00:46:17] And I think that comes back to what the question you asked, which was, how do you support your friend or your child in and out of the ring? And I would say giving them space. Yeah, have their own routine, have their own experience and acknowledging that and and again asking, you know, when would you like me to. Is it the car ride home? Is it the next day? When is it that you. You want me in your. You know I can, I can. 

Tonya Johnston [00:46:44] I can I ask. 

Kirsten Jones [00:46:45] For that for a bit? How can I help you? 

Tonya Johnston [00:46:47] Yeah. Yeah, 100%. Wow. This is all great. So I, I definitely recommend parents out there to check out your book, Raising Empowered Athletes and your podcast Hashtag Raising Athletes. Right. That’s absolutely. 

Kirsten Jones [00:47:02] Yeah. And my my website is Kirsten Jones Inc.com. You can find the podcast on there. You can find where I’m speaking. You can find other, other events that I’ve spoken at. And I would like to just say caveat raising empowered take out athlete. Put an artist take out athlete put in equestrian. It really is about what are the tools that we parents, we adults, we kids, teachers, coaches, whoever, the tools that we need to be good humans and happy and healthy. And what we know is when we are lifelong athletes, when kids keep keep active beyond the age of 23, you know, cancer and depression and anxiety and all of that goes down. And it has nothing to do with competing. It has everything to do with staying creative and curious and active. 

Tonya Johnston [00:47:51] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Wow. Thank you so much. It was so fun talking with you today. 

Kirsten Jones [00:47:57] Likewise. Thanks for having me on. 

Tonya Johnston [00:47:59] Awesome. All right. Thanks so much. 

Tonya Johnston [00:49:30] For our tip of the month. We’re going to discuss how to use bookends within your rides to improve your focus. When you hack on your own between lessons, you often know what things you should be working on, right? You might call parts of these rides doing your homework, right? There’s the aspect of it where you’re working on themes or goals or specific skills within a ride where you’re not in the lesson. Right. So this can be super helpful because riding on your own can be filled with a lot of opportunity for growth. By having a specific idea of what you’ll work on, you’ll ensure a productive ride. Integrating exercises and ideas from your trainer from prior lessons can really add to the value of the ride, as well as increase the intensity of your focus. So, for example, let’s say your trainer has been focused on your transitions in your lessons. Maybe she particularly wants you to think about leg first for all of your downward transitions. Right. So your homework for those transitions is simple. You’ve talked about it. You’ve listened to her teach like the two of you have talked about it. And so the way you’re organizing it in your own mind now is that you say to yourself, organize first. Leg to hand, accurate and smooth. Okay, so that’s sort of the homework you’ve given yourself. So in order to do to work on this homework and use bookends. During your hack, let’s say you decide to design yourself an exercise with a three loop serpentine. Right. So you’re saying, okay, I’m going to do walk. You know, trot, walk transitions across the center line like as you change direction. Right. On your first way down the ring, you’re going to do trot, to walk and then trot each loop. Right. And then at the end you’re going to switch gears and you’re going to canter and you’re going to do canter to walk transitions on the way back. You’re just making this up. I mean, I’m just giving you this random example, right? But basically you’re giving yourself sort of an exercise that has a beginning and an ending. And you’ve integrated the thing that you want to work on. So you’ve created a very simple little schooling exercise for yourself to do within your hack. That definitely lets you practice what you’re working on in your lessons. So the idea is for you to go one step further, right? Once you’ve made that exercise for yourself, and you’re going to give yourself very precise bookends for writing the drill or the exercise. So there’s a clear beginning. And a clear ending. Okay, so why would we want to do this? So the benefits are many. So one you’re practicing focusing in the moment as you have to do in competition. Right. So you’re just like okay this is my plan. This is what I’m doing and you’re executing right two. You’re giving yourself a moment to practice part of your freeride routine. So there, when you go before you begin, you’re going to rehearse kind of what do you do and say to yourself right before you start in at a horse show? It would be like right before you walk through the gate, for example. And three, you’re providing yourself with a clear amount of time to problem solve, plan, execute, and then review the ride. So each of those pieces, the problem solving like the how am I going to get this done? How are these transitions going to be ridden? Well, you’re making a plan. You’re actually riding it. And then you’re reviewing. Right. So it’s, it’s you’re being a little bit clear and on purpose with those phases to really help generate and polish your ability to focus on one thing at a time and, and let yourself then in, in the ride, really stay in the moment. Right? Because you’re when you have an exercise like that set, you’re not in the middle of the ride going, oh, I think I’ll turn left or oh, I think I’ll turn right. Right. You have already like you’ve given yourself like a mini like course, almost. Even if it’s like two circles at the end of the ring, it doesn’t matter what it is, it matters that it can have a beginning and an ending, and that really mimics. The focus we need to have when we’re on course. Right? So riding exercises with bookends can be done with anything flat work, poles, cavaletti, jumping work. Whether your exercises are simple or complex does not the relevant point. Like you know your horse, you know your trainer, you got you know what you’re working on. But the key here, what I’m trying to share with you is, is the way you frame the exercise. So you’re going to give yourself extra time to prepare. As well as debrief how it went when you’re done and you’ll you by doing this, you’re going to highlight the quality of your focus. And you’re going to practice staying in the moment while you’re within the ride. Okay. So here let’s do this sort of step by step. Right. So riding an exercise with bookends, the setup would be to make a clear beginning and ending point for the exercise or course by using a marker of some sort like a cone or, you know, a standard or a fence post like a particular tree or the gate to your ring at home. Occasionally or before a show, like actually entering the ring and exiting on conclusion of the exercise is useful as well, right? So by entering and exiting, you mimic the competition environment even more and you practice sort of some of your pre-read process more fully. So that’s just a little tip for, you know, occasionally if you want to go that extra step. So then to begin, you’ll have already warmed up and feel ready to begin. You’re going to come to a halt at your markers. So you’re going to look at it, the ring and make a clearly defined plan. For riding your exercise again. This could be so simple. Like I said, it could be riding two circles left at the trot or one lap of the ring. Honestly, it could be anything. The point is that you’re practicing generating your focus so that it is at a level similar to your intensity at a show or event. Like, okay, I’m gathering myself up and I’m ready to go. So think about adding your trainer’s homework or your performance goals into your plan. So from our earlier example, you’d be thinking organize leg to hand, accurate and smooth, like as you reviewed kind of the serpentine pattern that you were planning. Then you’re going to take two deep and complete circle breaths. So breathing in through your nose. And then having that patient pause. And exhaling for longer than you inhaled through your mouth. Right. So that’s going to cue you to transition from the planning and analysis phase of your ride to the actual riding portion, where you’re going to let yourself feel and trust and just keep doing your best in the moment. The next phase then is riding the exercise. So you’re going to begin the exercise and stay completely in the present moment. So you’re riding your plan and incorporating what you feel from your horse. You’re just doing your best. You’re riding every single step. You’re you’re going to be sure to use training solutions as you go. You’re not going to allow yourself to reflect back or check your progress during this phase. You’re just going to stay completely in it. Okay. And then when you get to your marker at the end of your exercise, that’s when you enter the phase of like, you’re finished and you’re going to let your self review. So you’ve come down to a halt or maybe the walk really at your marker of like, okay, this is the end point. So this then makes a clear ending for you, and you’re going to be disciplined when you start this review. You’re going to talk to yourself about, okay, how did that go? Right. You’re going to be disciplined about first reflecting on at least two things you liked. Such as your first downward transition from the canter, maybe, or how your eyes stayed up and ahead of you, or the accuracy of your trot transitions on the center line, whatever it might be. But you’re going to pick those things out. Maybe you remember to exhale each time you went down into the walk or what have you. Next, you’re going to review the ride from beginning to end, to look for places to improve or things to fine tune a little bit. Right. So you’re thinking about staying in in like a solution oriented mindset during this process, instead of being critical or negative or judgmental in this phase. So really like okay, like if I was going to do this again, how would I, how would I do it and polish it up a little bit? Maybe you actually go ahead and ride it a second time. Maybe you don’t. But either way, you’re giving yourself sort of the lesson. From the experience. If there were any mistakes or anything. Any bobbles, you’re letting those go and you’re taking the lesson forward. So this process really supports your focus. By providing a clear beginning and an ending to the exercise. So just like walking in and out of the gate at a horse show. So that’s what we’re that’s one of the things we’re really rehearsing here as we do this and you strengthen. Your transition. Between planning to doing right to your practicing, staying with it, being in the moment, as well as how you want to best debrief once you’re done, not during the ride. So I’m hoping this provides some inspiration for you. Please let me know how it goes. If anyone uses this and likes it, please let me know. It’s certainly, something to be creative with and I hope it’s helpful. So it’s such a terrific way to boost your mindset. Good luck and have fun with it. 

Tonya Johnston [01:01:02] You can find the links to today’s guest and the show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow the plaidcast on all of the social medias, 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.