Plaidcast 379: Tonya Johnston’s Inside Your Ride with Tasha Visokay by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 379 Tonya Johnston's Inside Your Ride with Tasha Visokay

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Tonya Johnston, Mental Skills Coach speaks with trainer and rider Tasha Visokay of Ingenium Farm. Tonya also answers a listener question on how to get into your zone quickly. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!

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Tonya Johnston: This is episode 379 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 trainer and rider, Tasha Visokay of Ingenium Farm. I also answer a listener question on how to get into your zone quickly. Thank you for joining me today. Happy May. This year is flying by already. And I hope that in the midst of all of the hats you wear in your life, you’re also enjoying lots of time with your horse. So this month, I wanted to share a little bit of my behind the scenes as far as the social media posts that I share. And it’s evolved into a super fun part of my work that I really enjoy. It doesn’t feel like work. I mean, none of my work typically feels like work, so I’m super blessed in that way. And the social media stuff as well. And the memes I make or pictures and quotes or ideas and reminders that I share are all super organic and come to me from my true passion for my work. I really just share things when I move to do so. So I also really find the work meditative. It almost feels like making art when I put them together. It’s calming and fun and exciting all at the same time. So I want to take this moment to appreciate everyone who interacts with my work on Instagram. I’m at Inside Your Ride and on Facebook at TonyaJohnstonMentalSkillsCoach. It’s a fun way to put out mindset and mental skills, motivation and inspiration and little teachings into the world. And I just love how it connects us all. So on that note, I wanted to share a quote that I ran into that I love that you may see on my social media soon, and it’s by Ellen Langer. Ellen is a researcher and professor of psychology at Harvard. In fact, she was the first woman to be tenured at Harvard. She’s a leader in thought and research around the subject of mindfulness, decision making, aging and the illusion of control. She’s a total rock star. So if you, you know, she’s got some, some books. Mindfulness is a book of hers that chronicles a lot of her research. That’s super fascinating. That’s old. It’s probably like 25 years old. But anyway, I’ve been listening to a bunch of her. She’s on a lot of podcasts and a quote of hers that stood out to me recently was, don’t worry about making the right decision. Make the decision right. Isn’t that awesome? Don’t worry about making the right decision. Make the decision right. It focuses us on the important and vital actions we can take to support any decision in life. So with regards to our sport, it makes me think of like riding around, like riding out of a corner and seeing where you are to a jump and simply trusting yourself to make whatever it is work. ​​Right? So you are making a choice and then you’re ensuring it works in how you handle the choice. Right? So there’s no perfect thing. There’s no right decision. You’re going to make it right. You can reduce the anxiety about right or perfect distance, right? And let’s you focus on the riding and the partnership with your horse. So make the decision right, right? So great. OK, so now let’s switch gears and get to my terrific conversation with trainer Tasha Visokay right after these messages.

Tonya Johnston: Tasha Visokay has over 35 years of experience riding, training, and caring for horses and their riders. After a successful career as a junior rider and working student, she began her professional career after graduating from Barnard College. She worked for top professionals, Andre Dignelli, Leslie Steele, Mark Bone, and Karen Healey, before starting her own Ingenium Farm in 2016.Ingenium Farm is not only a place for clients and their horses to grow and find success in the show ring, it’s also a family. A family Tasha has proudly built from the ground up. Tasha has a natural talent as a horse trainer and rider in the hunter and jumper rings, but her ability to run a successful business is also one of her biggest strengths. Tasha’s clients have won top ribbons at local, regional, and national medal finals, as well as top placings at jumper, year end award finals. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today, Tasha.

Tasha Visokay: Thank you for asking me. 

Tonya Johnston: Yeah, this is awesome. I’m so excited. You’ve done so much in your career and have worked in a lot of different situations and maybe we could start by just having you share from sort of like your mental strength perspective, like throughout your career, things that have, you really feel that they have contributed to the way you look at mindset in the sport. Maybe walk us through like when you started, like your junior career, like how you feel that shaped the focus and strength that you have.

Tasha Visokay: You know, I mean, when I, when I rode as a junior, I never really felt any, any pressures actually, like my trainer made it really fun for me. Indoors, my mom was very easy on me. It was always really whatever I wanted and needed. It wasn’t until I, I, you know, graduated, so to speak, into becoming a professional and feeling that things really, they got harder when I got, when I got older. And for me, I had to figure out a way as a professional to not get nervous or when I put on my white pants on Sunday for a bigger class, like it was really hard for me at the beginning to not change the way I wrote on Sundays or on a classic day. And I think, you know, as I, as I got older, figuring out how to manage my own mindset, I think that that’s something that helped me work with my kids, you know, trying to get them to, to better understand the mental side of riding. Because I think it’s not, I think that’s the most important part of this. Like I think, I think our nerves and our, you get in the way of what we allow ourselves to do. 

Tonya Johnston: Yeah. Are there things that, anything tangible or anything specific you remember, like turning corners with or you know what I mean? Are there times or places that stand out as far as sort of that dime dropping for you?

Tasha Visokay: Yeah, Going to indoors when I rode with, when I worked for Mark Bone and I had a first year horse. I mean, I was terrified, right? I was terrified to go and show against all these top professionals. And I have to say that Mark actually made it really fun for me, which allowed me to relax, you know? And it, and I ended up being grand champion there, which was amazing, you know? And then the following week, I ended up crashing on the same horse and it was devastating, you know, the highs and the lows. And then to pick myself up and try to, you know, still show that horse and do it again. But, you know, in the end, I learned that that’s part of the sport, right? Like you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some, you’re going to be at the top, you’re going to be at the bottom. But all of that ends up making you stronger, you know, the same thing with the Grand Prix is like, I remember jumping clean in my first one. And then the following one, I couldn’t navigate my way around because I was like, the pressure of winning made it harder for me than than going in as a newcomer, you know, and I think I can really relate to that with the kids because I see it a lot with my students. Like, you know, the first time they do something, they kind of do it really well, you know, and then they’re expected to keep doing it well.  And then that makes them not do it well, you know, and I like to use a lot of those experiences that I have to relate to my students to be like, listen, I’m in the same shoes. I’m in the same shoes every day that you are. You know, but I think it’s just like getting the highs and the lows and being able to finally accept them and know that that’s part of the journey. And I try to explain to my students that it’s when you lose or when you make mistakes that you learn the most. I think.

Tonya Johnston: True.

Tasha Visokay: In life, not just in horses, you know, like throughout my whole life, I’ve learned the most from when things are not going that well or really bad. And that’s what I try to at least get the kids and the parents to understand that like you have to fail to succeed.

Tonya Johnston: That’s for sure. It’s, it’s a, it’s a real journey. And I think what you’re talking about is a bit of what we talk about nowadays is having a growth mindset.It’s sort of like, if learning is the ultimate goal and getting better is the ultimate goal, then anything that serves that is useful. Winning, losing mistakes, riding beautifully, like all of it, because it’s all informative. And when we are approaching it that way, it lessens the fear and it sort of embraces all of it. There’s no bad, there’s no good. It’s all just information.

Tasha Visokay: Yeah. I like that post that you had on the other day about, I don’t know, someone who made a mistake. They just made less of a mistake than you, something like that.

Tonya Johnston: Yes.

Tasha Visokay: That really rang true when I read that because I think we put so much on points and winning and, right? What about just winning for today or winning in that class or, you know, I had a student a couple of years ago that you worked with that couldn’t canter a pole on the ground in the finals, would leave the ring. She wouldn’t even canter the first jump, you know? So if she made it around the course, I was like, you won today. Like you completed your course, you know? So I think if we can change the perspective a little bit on the situation, we could be happier with the outcome, you know?

Tonya Johnston: And happier in the process, because the process isn’t going to change. We can be miserable or we can be okay, but the process is not changing. Yeah.

Tasha Visokay: Yep. 100%. But remember what you’re riding for that day. Like I went to the horse show the other day at Temecula and I was on my six year old and he was, I don’t know, for whatever reason, he came off of one week and he was wild and he was screaming and I was getting frustrated. And then I just stopped and I was like, okay, he’s six years old. He won two classes last week. He’s acting like he’s six. Let’s go on a trail ride and try again tomorrow. And it really helped me because it just relieved the pressure that I was putting on myself for him to be good. And then he was good. Right. I mean, it’s funny how that works, right? Like when I think for the kids to also understand that these animals, especially if they’re super sensitive ones, they feel what’s going on. So as much as we want to say, we’re good, we’re good. Like I got it, I’m focused. Like if you’re nervous and you’re tense, your horse is going to be nervous and tense. But it’s hard to do that at like an indoor situation when you have your two minutes to show what you’ve been working for all year to say, hey, just relax. Right. But I think we have to find ways to do that.  Right. For it to be beneficial for us and the horses.

Tonya Johnston: Well, and that’s part of the work you’re doing all year is building a mindset that can embrace that kind of moment instead of put it on such a pedestal at the top of the mountain that you can’t breathe because the air is too thin. That’s part of everybody’s work, I think, is how to look at the process even in those situations to be process oriented. And it’s hard. It’s very hard. It’s very hard. It’s hard for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before either. That’s the thing. People think, oh, well, she’s got it easy. She’s done it. She’s gone to this. She’s done that. It’s hard for everybody for different reasons. And I think when we tell ourselves these myths about how so-and-so has this horse and so therefore it’s easy or they’ve done it longer or they ride with that, you know, it’s hard for everybody.

Tasha Visokay: It’s hard for the trainers too. 

Tonya Johnston: Yeah!

Tasha Visokay: You know, we on the out gate, I sometimes get more nervous for my kids when they walk in, than I think some of them do, you know. Yeah. No, maybe not. Maybe not. But for sure I get like, Oh, no, you know, yeah, no, I understand the pressures too. You know, and I have to remember when I’m riding their horses and I’m showing them to for them, it’s a pressure that I put on myself to make them right for them. You know, that’s an added pressure when I take them in the ring. I don’t have many that I showed just in the open divisions, but I’m always, you know, and now with the with the internet and then being able to watch every single round, you know, you don’t want to make a mistake as a trainer either, right? Because then they’re going to see it and then they’re going to worry like, hey, what if my horse does that? Right. And it’s a lot.

Tonya Johnston: My perspective for that is always, it’s not about what happens. It’s about how you handle it. So then as a trainer, you’re modeling how to handle that mistake, right? And how to refocus and like ride to the next line differently or whatever it might be, or the horse was a little bit fresh and difficult that day and you handle it with such grace and like such, there’s a smoothness to it and, you know, I think it’s, I think, and that’s part of what I was saying about process over product, right? It’s so even in that kind of moment where you might, like what you said, be putting that pressure on yourself, it’s like you’re still modeling for them how to handle that. Yes, so it’s not whether or not it happened, right? I read a quote, I was doing some research on you before our conversation. So I read, I loved this quote after, so you won that, you know, they started doing that pro equitation challenge at Thermal a couple years ago that you won. And you said, I think it’s really good for the kids to see us in this position. It’s also good for us to put ourselves in this, in the position we ask our kids to be in every day and remember what pressure is like. I try to work through one thing that makes me scared every day and today this was it. That’s such an awesome philosophy. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Tasha Visokay: Yes, I do. I believe that. And I actually tell my kids that I don’t do it as often as I should now. But if I’m, if there’s something that I am afraid to do, I try to push myself to do it. When you asked me to do this podcast, if you had given me a moment to think about it, I probably would have said no. So my initial reaction was yes, just so that, you know, if I’m scared of something to walk through it, because it’s like walking through an in-gate, right? I mean, those pro-equitation challenge classes, you know, I enjoy them, but there, it is, it’s pressure. You know, I mean, if you watch all of us professionals out there, it was pretty funny for me just to watch, right? Everyone’s getting ready and they’re circling and, you know, the saddle’s not right. I mean, you should listen to us. We sounded like it was our first time again, right? It was quite comical. And it was fun then when we got to change horses. But the kids got to enjoy it and see, you know, I had my kids come there and pretend to be the trainer, right? You’re my trainer. I’m on your horse. Help me out. But I do believe within reason, if it’s safe, I try to get my kids to step outside of their comfort zone. Because that’s where you find some growth and understanding of things. Right.

Tonya Johnston: Yeah. That’s great.

Tasha Visokay: You know, moving up to a new division, you know, going to a different finals, riding a new horse, any of those things, right? Because so much of what we are, what we are anxiety and stuff like that stems from fear. And if we can realize that the fears are just something that we’re making up in our mind and we can walk through them, then we have a sense of accomplishment .And then, and then you can change that fear into something good. Like, wow, I did it. I didn’t think I could.

Tonya Johnston: Yeah. And then just, just the, just the saying yes and just the right is to to do it is, is the win, right?

Tasha Visokay: You know, I had, I had a kid, I had, I had a kid once that, you know, she wanted to do the 1.30s. The parents didn’t want her to do the 1.30. She’s not ready. She’s not ready. She’s having a bad week in the equitation, you know? And, but her jumpers were going well and we’re going to do the 1.30s. Everyone’s like, Oh my God, whatever. Right. And so we did it. We did it pretty darn good. And that in turn was the turning point for her riding in the equitation better because she believed in herself. You know, so I, I think walking through those things and being able to pat yourself on the back, it just helps the overall confidence. Self-esteem. And if you can raise your self-esteem when you’re riding, you usually ride better.

Tonya Johnston: Yeah. Yep. So how, when your students come out of the ring, having made a mistake, like how do you help that process? So when it hasn’t, when you were saying there was a student who was struggling, so like how do you help them not, you know, cause it’s, it’s real tempting to go into a pretty good negative spiral sometimes. And obviously you’re not the only person in charge. The rider has to know how to do that too. But like, what is your, what are, what are some of your main strategies in that situation?

Tasha Visokay: Well, first of all, I always start with what they did right. Always. And I sometimes ask them to tell me two things they did right, three things they did right. I may have learned that from you actually. But I do do that, you know, and Val Renahan is someone that I work a lot with and she’s helped me with when I watch her teach, don’t say you’re not doing this, say, or you need, don’t do this, say do this. So I always try to start with a positive word rather than a negative word. And I always try to ask the kids to tell me something. What did you like about your round?  No, and I didn’t like any of it. Well, there had to be something you like. Maybe you did a nice lead change. What do you like? Find something you like about your round. And sometimes I won’t even go to the negative effect. You know, like, you’ve got to go watch your video.

Tonya Johnston: Interesting.

Tasha Visokay: Come back with me and tell me something you like, and then we can go over how to fix what you don’t like.

Tonya Johnston: Oh, I like that. Like having that much discipline that they can’t skip over it.

Tasha Visokay: Yeah, I don’t let them sometimes. You know, and sometimes when the kids come out of the ring and, you know, they want to be really negative or hold their head down or cry or, you know, all the things, right? Mm hmm. Go for a walk. And when you’re ready to talk to me in a positive manner, come back. I don’t want to talk to you when you’re in this mindset because you’re not going to hear anything I have to say. So that’s how, yeah. I think that now they know me. They go, we need a minute and they just leave, you know, and the parents are like, aren’t you talking about your rounds? Yeah, we will. They know.

Tonya Johnston: Well, that’s great. I was just about to say that sometimes the challenge of the, of, of trainers for show schedules and having to go from ring to ring doesn’t afford that kind of space, but sometimes it’s just impossible to, you’ve got to take some breath and like, give yourself a moment to be able to like, put it down and then examine it.

Tasha Visokay: I’ll have kids come back later and be like, I’m ready to talk now. Yeah. You know, I had just even a Temecula, one of the girls, I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. Why aren’t I like, and she was taking full blame, not blaming her horse. And she said, I just, I can’t find a distance. I can’t, I can’t like, I’m like, right, but listen to yourself talk. Like, that’s how you’re riding. And she, I said, just, just take a deep breath, go watch your videos, come back and talk to me. And she came back and she was like, you know, I see what I’m doing wrong. I see my hands. I said, right. So now, now we’re going to work on fixing that. But she had to take a minute to review that. I mean, she said, you’re right. I’m riding like I’m talking. I said, I know. That’s a good realization. That’s good awareness. I mean, when the kids, I have one kid that always talks to me at the gate. She starts talking really fast when she’s nervous. And I said, you need to tell me the course 10 times slower because you’re going to go on and ride like you’re popping the clutch the whole way around the ring. And then I have another kid who, when she’s nervous, her eyes squint. Like they really squint and she gets this real mean look on her face. I said, no, no, no, that’s not the look. You know, you need to open your eyes so you can see. But I think it’s about knowing each kid too, right? Like there’s some horses, you can’t train horses the same way. You can’t train kids the same way. Right. Like one style doesn’t suit every every kid, you know? You know, I have one student that works really well with me just being, you know, freeing it like get on Wachtruck, Kenner, let’s jump today, jump around, you know, and we make it fun. And I have other ones that I have to like talk every step through it, right? And I have some that are within lessons like that. So it makes for a real interesting lesson when you’re watching on the side, what’s going on here, right? But I think a good teacher has to figure out how to teach or mentor each kid, not they have to fit into your particular box, right? And the same with the horses. I have some horses that I, you know, they’re great with doing a good flat lesson in jumping. And then I have some that come in and you have a, your timer is going to be up in 22 minutes, start jumping right now. You know, and that horse can’t go in a lesson. So that horse goes in between lessons. When the one kids are switching and getting on for their next, that one shows up and just jumps around. Great. You’re done.

Tonya Johnston: Well, and I think to be able to do that, and there’s a couple of qualities you need. You need curiosity. You need to be interested to get to know each kid and each horse. And you also need a certain amount of patience to figure out what are the ingredients that help that, you know, so that you sound like you have a really good blend of those two qualities to be, to be interested and good at that is not, it’s not everybody’s forte.

Tasha Visokay: I used to teach autistic kids. I wrote my thesis on autistic kids. The formation of self in children with pervasive developmental disorders. And I worked with this one special kid named Jeffrey. And I bagged my thesis my senior year to write my thesis on him. I didn’t graduate on time. I had to, you know, go back and graduate afterwards. And it was over a job that I did not love children, believe it or not. I mean, I do now. I had no real work with children outside of just seeing them at the barn when I was in when I graduated college. And anyway, I applied for a job and it was an interesting interview. And I got the job. But the perspective was going into the kids world. It’s not like a lot. There was not a lot about autism then. And bringing the kid into your work, you’re going into the kids world rather than making the kid come to your world. And always saying the positive things and never using negative words and taking the time to read their body language. And it really changed my, that changed my perspective on a lot of things. 

Tonya Johnston: Right. Powerful.

Tasha Visokay: Like it really, it really did. It made me really notice how much like humans can communicate without using words. And same thing, I mean, you apply that to the horses and to the kids. And I think it just made me, it helped me be very perceptive to what was going on around me.

Tonya Johnston: Absolutely. That’s amazing. I would imagine it really, it still, I mean, like you said, it sounds like it really helped form the philosophy and foundation of how you teach.

Tasha Visokay: Yeah, definitely.

Tonya Johnston: Yeah, that’s awesome. What an amazing experience. How much also, I know that you worked for a lot of top trainers like Andre and Karen and, you know, how much watching others teach, you know, when you’re an assistant, obviously you’re busy and you’re doing your own thing, but you’re also around other people teaching a lot, right? Where is that? What kinds of things did you gather? Do you remember any particulars or anything that still sticks with you?

Tasha Visokay: I learned a lot from from probably everyone that I think everyone that I taught, and I’m friends with still all of them, which is great, right? It’s funny when we’re when I have Karen come over and teach, sometimes still. I hear the words in my head formulating, right? And they’re exactly the words she say. So it’s interesting. So for sure, I know that I take a lot from all of them.  You know, I think Andre really taught me discipline. He gave me a job like right off the bat. And I’m so I’m so grateful for that. Right. And and he really improved my riding. So I think my style comes a lot from him, which I try to teach to my kids, a light seat, a loose arm. The same with Karen. Mark Bone really helped me with the hunters. And also how to make it fun. I took that from Mark. You know, you learn it’s a little bit of everything. But I like to I like to watch. I actually still like to watch the warm up ring.  I like when I’m at a horse show, you’ll find me watching the warm up ring more than the show ring. I like to see how people prepare their horses, what they do, how the how the trainers teach the kids, what the kids get out of it. Like, I spend way more time watching the warm up ring than the show ring.

Tonya Johnston: Right. Well, and that’s I mean, that’s an interesting process.

Tasha Visokay: Even when I want to buy a horse, right? I watch what they do to warm it up, not what happens in the ring.

Tonya Johnston: Right. That makes sense. Definitely. Is what what continues? Like, where do you get, you know, motivation and inspiration? Do you listen to things? Is it from doing things like that of, of watching and just continuing to be a sponge or, I mean, doing this for a long time. I mean, doing any job for a long time, we sort of have want to keep an eye on keeping ourselves inspired to, to do our best work. Like, what’s that process like for you?

Tasha Visokay: Um, you know, every time I get frustrated and feel like I’m getting set back, I just take a moment. This is, and, and spend it with my horse. And it reminds with my horses because I have way too many.  I’m like a hoarder. But, um, you know what? Like I was feeling really burnt out after thermal. And I went to, we had like 28 horses the first two. It was just a lot. Right. And I, and I’m running from ring to ring to ring to ring to ring. And I, and I don’t have to really feel like any person. And I wasn’t even giving the clients the amount of time I felt they needed. Right. So I felt, because I like to go to every ring. So my, I drive my assistants crazy. Hold that ring. Hold this ring. You know, I try to make it to every single person. So when you have a lot it gets hard. So when I went to Temecula last week, i had 6 horses of my own and two of Paige Kerwins stabled with me and I took the timet to play with my own horses, get them ready, graze them at the end of the day, get lost on the trails behind the you know and that’s actually what reminds me oh my gosh I love this. And the horses were better because I took the time to spend with them. You know the other day I went back to the barn, I don’t know I live 8 miles away so I went back to the barn at 8 oclock at night and took my own horse, chestnut horse, one that’s not for sale and just spend an hour with him. Taking him out for some grass, grooming him and those type of things remind me oh this is the love of the sport and it brings me back to why I do it. And then I, you know, feel maybe a little refreshed. Also, I’ve branched into doing sale horses, because I found like a new aspect of it for me is picking them out in Europe, making them up, you know, selling them, finding the right riders for them. It’s hard because I don’t usually want to sell them. But I like buying them. I don’t like selling them. But when the situation comes up that they end up in a really, really good home, that makes me happy.  And I tend to, with my own sale horses, tend to, you know, I don’t just sell them to anyone, right? I kind of try to find the right situations for each horse that I think is going to be the right match so the horse can succeed. And that makes me really happy when that happens.

Tonya Johnston: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Well, thank you so, so much for taking the time. It was so great talking with you.

Tasha Visokay: Same here.

Tonya Johnston: This month’s listener question comes from a listener in California. I was wondering if there are any tips that you have to get into the mode or zone right away when starting to jump and starting the course either at home or at a show. To almost do the course in a one and done type of way. I only have one horse at the moment that I jump, and it is difficult for me to get into the zone from the get go. It’s not that distances are bad or I’m chipping, it’s just that feeling of being 100% smooth takes a while to achieve some days. Like at the show, by the end of the second course is when I feel super confident in the groove and I feel like my horse is in the groove and it becomes easy. Some days I’m in the zone right away, but not often. Long story short, any tips to get in the zone right away? So I certainly wish I had a simple one size fits all answer to this question. I think everyone would benefit no matter what they were showing in or their level of riding. And I think this question really gets at the crux of our mental skills work with athletes as a whole, doesn’t it? So this question of how can you use your tools to get into your zone before you start your activity, whatever it might be that day. I could make a case for how just about each and every specific mental skill that I teach could be useful here. But let’s focus on a few that I think have the biggest potential for the most impact. So first, I would suggest including visualization in your pre-ride routine, both in lessons and at shows. A lot of times people think about that just doing that in horse shows, but it can really be helpful in lessons as well. You know, one of the very best uses of visualization is to ride the course before you ride the course, right? Using that internal perspective where you’re using all of your senses to feel you and your horse jumping around together. The practice of visualizing as part of a pre-performance routine has been shown through research across a wide variety of sports to improve performance in a number of ways, including boosting confidence, waking up muscle memory, and reducing anxiety. So it’s really indicated here for this question of getting into the zone, visualization is really something that can be helpful. Visualizing before you get on your horse will give you more reps to get yourself focused, energized and help you be on point for your first round. In a lesson setting, when you don’t know what the course is before you get on, what I would suggest is try to make up an exercise or full course based on what you see set in your range. So that means getting to the barn, getting out of the car, if the course has changed, you’re looking at it, you’re walking around the ring a little bit before you go to tack up or before you go to get on. And it’s not always about visualizing the exact course that you’re going to jump in real life. You can be creative with the process and think of using a short visualization session with some sample made up course that you just made up and think of using it like a warm up round to get you riding smoothly and effectively. So this listener talked about like usually by the second round feeling like they get in a groove. Well, if you can give yourself one or two rounds before you even get on your horse, you’re going to be that much further along to getting into that groove that you’re talking about.Second, I suggest that you integrate some energy activation into your pre-reide routine before you get on your horse, right?  So it’s challenging for any athlete to go from zero to 60 in a short span of time. Sometimes we get out of the car at the barn or get on our horse for a lesson very quickly, or you may go from watching your ring at a show to hopping on at the warm up ring. And there are some horses who, for example, like they only want to jump like three jumps in the warm up. Well, that’s fine. And that might be the horse’s process, but that might not be your process. So it’s up to you to do some things before you get on to take care of yourself, right?  So you can start the process of getting into your zone by activating your body with exercise and breath work. I know it can be challenging to figure out where and what to do. And I actually wish that our sport would embrace and normalize the concept of a light physical warmup for the rider before getting on. But I do encourage you to be creative and figure it out. So many times you may not have a very long warmup before getting on or going in the ring. And it can be extremely helpful to have limbered up your own body with some light exercise, raise your heart rate a little bit with a short jog or a brisk walk, or some breath work that’s focused on the intensity and using a conscious inhale.  Even taking a quick bike ride around the showgrounds or around the barn or some active stretching. These are all ideas to kind of get your blood moving and get yourself to an activation level that is going to allow you to step into the zone more quickly. I mean, I’m using zone in quotes, right? Whatever we each describe for ourselves as being sort of that place where we feel most energized and aware and focused in the moment. The final suggestion I wanted to share about getting into the zone right away is to think about using any tool, strategy, or cue that you can utilize to help yourself switch gears, creating that, switching gears from a thinking or analyzing or predictive state of mind where you’re learning the course, let’s say, or thinking about your plan. We got to consciously switch gears into a place of calm and trust and presence in the moment, right?  So, often we find that state of trust and flow, like the listener described, as we continue to ride and we do more and we get more and more comfortable, you know, that’s totally understandable. However, making a conscious shift from your analytic frame of mind into your feeling and intuitive state of being is going to help you get into the zone with your horse as you walk in the ingate, right? Because the zone is not a thinking place. It’s a feeling place. So you want to create a cue that helps you switch gears into that. So this could be done by using tools such as breathing techniques, mantras, talking to your horse either under your breath or by using an internal voice with your self-talk. You know, a mantra like exhale and go forward would be an example of something that you could use to switch gears from your thinking mind into simply riding and being one with your horse. So exhale and go forward. That’s an example, right? So the best recipe for helping yourself get into the zone is one that only you can discover. But I hope these ideas help you on your journey. Good luck, stay creative and track what works. Please stay in touch. I love getting notes and letting me know when people are using some of these ideas, how it’s going. So, good luck out there. Have fun. 

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. 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 ebook. 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.