6 ways for riders to stay calm amid life changes

Life changes can upset your balance and impact your ability to work effectively with your horses. But there are ways to maintain your calm and regain your stability, so you can continue riding at your personal best.

I love studying how we can be fulfilled, happy and calm with our horses, even amid the inevitable and often stressful changes that occur in our lives. Learning how to be my best around horses led me to become trained as a Personal Performance Coach for riders in all disciplines. I teach “mental skills” to equestrians. Utilizing mental skills – the ability to ride at your highest level on demand, in any situation, with a highly fine-tuned sense of calmness and focus – is a learned ability. It’s not a talent. So if you tend to be a nervous nelly, especially when dealing with a major change in your life, know that with proper training you can call up a special state of clarity that will allow you to ride consistently at your personal best.

“What do I love?”

In my Personal Performance training, I learned to ask myself power questions. One of these questions was: “What do I love?” I knew I could stay cool on the inside if I remained within the boundaries of what I loved and could control.

We all seek joy, confidence and ease on our own equestrian journeys. This is true whether we love competition, improving our skills in the arena, or riding on the trail.

We are all seeking joy, confidence and ease on our own equestrian journeys. This is true whether we love competition, improving our skills in an arena, or riding on the trail.

A key point is that we all have an individual journey. The next key point is that each of us is the keeper of our own journey. This is no easy task. Rarely will you find only one trainer or educational resource that has all the solutions you need to help you master your own technical or mental riding challenges.

Then there’s this pesky little intruder called “change”. If an abrupt wrench is thrown into our journey – like an accident, a trainer change, a family crisis, or simply getting older or watching our interests change – our entire world seems to turn upside down. The ground beneath our feet is no longer steady. We feel anxious.

How do you develop the ability to call up calmness amid change, so you can continue to be your best with your horse?

6 ways to calm your nerves and regain a sense of steadiness

1. Ask yourself, “What do I really love…NOW?”

Answer honestly. It’s not about what your friend, stable mate or trainer loves – it’s about what you love. With time and life events, your likes and loves may change. It’s hard sometimes to let go of past measures of success and joy. But when you search your soul for what you really love – and stay true to that – you are on the road to a fulfilling journey.

It’s not about what your friend, stable mate or trainer loves – it’s about what you love.

2. Have the courage to be you.

We are all imperfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Yet sometimes we so want to have it all together for the sake of the outside world. However, calmness comes from being true to yourself in all situations, from triumphs to heartaches. Seek a barn friend with whom you feel at ease and share your imperfections.

By the way, those “weaknesses” are your personal guidelines to your next steps of learning. Be yourself.

3. Be kind to yourself.

Do you ever tell yourself what a nitwit rider you are? We all do this at times.

I encourage you to listen to what you say to yourself. Speak to yourself in the same way you would encourage a close friend. You would never walk up to someone and say, “Man, I can’t believe you did that! You always make that stupid mistake. You’ll never get it!”

Be compassionate with yourself. You are doing the best you can at any moment in time. Are there improvements to be made? Sure. But that is our path – errors and then improvements. No one gets out of that arrangement, including you. Be truly kind to yourself.

4. Train yourself in the mental skills of high performance.

You can train yourself to do research-based “performer” skills to call up a state of calmness and confidence in a moment. The thumbnail explanation is that this state of calmness and focus is a specific set of emotions. Because the mind, body and emotions are inseparable, we can train any emotional state (including calmness) by how we think and what we do with our bodies. Actors do this all the time.

For example, if you want to feel confident (no matter how you really feel) use your body. Assume the posture of confidence – shoulders back, eyes up, regular breathing.

Utilize your thinking to your advantage. Talk to yourself about what you want instead of what you don’t want. Encourage yourself. Only focus on things you can control.

These are just a few tips anyone can learn. There are many more. With practice, they will change your riding, and change your life.

5. Know that there is always a gift in change.

I am a firm believer that there is always a gift in any challenge or change, and that this gift is equal to or greater than the heartache. Whatever potential hardship you are facing, look for the gifts instead of resisting what’s already happened.

6. Tell yourself you are always enough.

Sometimes, when difficult things happen, we think we are not enough because we feel we have “regressed”.

The reason you ride is for joy. You love horses. Nothing can ever take that away. You don’t have to be at some imaginary marker out in space. Feeling grateful for the pure joy of your passion for horses is an inside job.

You are always enough, wherever you are on your equine journey!