Horses are great animals for many reasons, but if you think about it, they are excellent teaching tools for people. Now I have as much appreciation for horses as anyone, but I am convinced they are not the smartest animals on the planet. They do, however, have great memories. This is one of the main reasons they are such teachable/trainable animals.
As a veterinarian, I really have to work so I don't develop tunnel vision when it comes to the horses I get to work with. My examinations are not that different from any other vet. They revolve around whatever problem the horse is presented for – lameness, colic, a wound, eye injury, you name it. The owner or hauler brings them in, or I take a look at them wherever they may be. Haltered and on the end of a lead rope, we go through the formalities of an exam.
I was at a show recently and overheard a verbal exchange between a trainer and his customer following an unsuccessful performance by the customer. Far from supportive or encouraging, I witnessed a brutal degradation on a personal level with little helpful critique to the actual performance. Rather than walking away with a valuable learning experience, I suspect the customer was left with a bruised self-esteem and little motivation to come back for more.
Top performance requires top condition. Whether a car, a horse, or ourselves, if we hope to achieve peak performance, we have to ensure the vehicle to success is well maintained. Most elite athletes are aware of the need to take care of themselves to produce consistent results in competition. Those of us involved in equestrian sports, however, tend to neglect our own needs with the assumption that our horse must be in peak condition for success in the pen.
So why reinvent the wheel? Let's see what is working for those that are successful and then adopt some of their strategies or habits. Which particular mental skills do most successful athletes seem to have in common?
Summer takes a toll on us all. With temperatures circling the century mark almost anywhere in the U.S., we should all be mindful of how this affects our horses. Most trainers in the Southwest will start working horses about 3 a.m. these days just to avoid the worst of the heat.
It seems like we just get used to something then it changes. It can be hard to keep up with the constant change and very distracting to our performance preparation.
Let's take a look at some significant changes that the equestrian industry has experienced over the years:
[caption id="attachment_34957" align="alignleft" width="150"]Anna Mitchell[/caption]I have received a number of emails regarding my article on mindful awareness. It seems that staying in the moment is difficult for more than just a couple of us. Advanced development of the human brain has awarded us top spot on the food chain, but the complexity of our cognitive processes can be our greatest handicap in the arena. Why can it be so difficult to get out of our head and into the moment?