Mental Training and Coaching for Horse Riders & Trainers
As an NLP user, Sport Mental Trainer, Sport Mental Coach, wingwave® Coach, Teaching Coach, Health Trainer and NLP Master Trainer, I would like to pass on the enrichment which I have experienced in my life through mental training and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to others.
In the context of my research in relevant literature and avid surfing on the internet, I ascertained that no link between mental training and NLP and areas of equestrian sport exists as such and indeed receives only scanty reference in books. This state of affairs surprises me even more because one important element used in NLP is work with mental visual representations and in particular the visual concept in equestrian sport should be more effectively used.
In my own career as a rider I have “struggled“ with fears and tensions, convictions and prejudices in all equestrian disciplines and selected the horse as a replacement for the missing partner. My horses could not breathe freely again until I had achieved clarity about my own matters. Sometimes at that time my contact to the horse was disturbed by something which was intangible, my perceptions towards the horses and on the horse were reduced and I was often quite reluctant to change my behavioural pattern on the horse, because I did not understand, or was quite simply unaware how I could have changed my behaviour.
The riding instructor often failed to give specific attention to the strengths of the horse and/or to my own strengths. In connection with NLP and other methods/techniques, I support riders and trainers in regaining their pleasure in riding, in achieving a sense of inner contentment, relaxing together with the horse and on the horse, in intensifying their experience with the horse and their sensations in the very widest sense, expanding their perception, of letting go, improving their balance on the horse and, as a consequence, also on the ground, making resources accessible in order to experience them in their full scope, improving their sense of enjoyment in life, increasing their own quality of life and promoting their physical coordination as a whole.
- Change from restricted, deep-seated convictions and doctrines about oneself, the trainer and the horse
- Development of a free, self-confident and authentic personality
- Dealing with fear and stage-fright
- Dealing with nervousness and pressure (resulting from other people’s expectations)
- Dealing with internal as well as external sources of irritation and blockages
- Creation of free space by clear demarcation and establishing respect for one’s own limits
- Development of composure, clarity and determination
- Affirmations (discussions with oneself)
- Promotion of the well-being of horse and rider
- Evolvement of one’s one potential
Everyday we grapple with our own limits: Limits which we experience, which are imposed upon us or which are exceeded. Our limits are not meant to restrict us but rather to protect our inner selves.
They establish the space in which we can nurture our creativity and the scope we require for our actions. This is why it is necessary to establish our own limits in realistic terms. There is no other place where our dealings with internal and external limits can be so scrupulously reviewed and reflected as in our work with horses. Providing clear rules are established in dealing with horses, they always subordinate themselves to human beings, despite the fact that they are still “wild” by nature. Once a person has succeeded in establishing the limits, these large animals acquiesce and indeed enjoy working together with human beings.
In mental training riders have the opportunity quite consciously to inspect and pace out their limits. You learn to be confident and skilful in your demeanour, increase your assertiveness and your powers of conviction.
The holistic nature of equestrian sport offers many possibilities and chances. Explanations and simulations in the practical setting and seminar room represent the first stage of learning. Observation and riding (simulation) in the riding school represent the second level of learning. A link is established to previously acquired knowledge and values which already exist, and everything which has been learned is integrated more strongly into the participant’s personality.
The principle of recognising what has been learned by oneself and implementing it, represents the third learning phase. Integration of everything learned into one’s own personality follows immediately afterwards.
I understand this approach, this accompaniment not as riding therapy, hippo therapy, curative riding, vaulting, riding for the disabled, rehabilitation, physiotherapeutic movement measures or therapeutic riding, but rather as sport mental training/sport coaching!
For thousands of years already, horses have been man’s best friend. They made it possible for him to travel great distances, served as a means of transport and have always been a kind of status symbol. Historically, dogs and horses are the animals which have the closest relationship to human beings. Special characteristics make the horse an ideal partner with which to find profound contentment – in a constantly ongoing learning process and in a school setting in which pupils teach and teachers learn. Riding in my eyes is a challenge, relaxation and pure natural pleasure, as can be observed with children.
If a rider wants to conclude a bond with a horse, he has to become involved in the equine type of communication, based on direct and clear signals. In communication between horse and rider there is no place for complexities, unspoken accusations, disguise or ridicule – an exonerating experience (for me). In communication it is necessary to find a mutual basis for understanding; it is not possible to enforce one’s own wishes at all costs against the will of the horse; a horse can always defend itself very effectively against aggressive behaviour on the part of a human being. By means of calm but resolute and clear communication it is, however, possible to gain the cooperation of a horse.
Physical contact and body language lead to a deeper level of communication than words can achieve.
Sport mental training / coaching consists of a large number of activities involving all kinds of contact with the horse. The specific learning experiences and theoretical content in the practice or in the seminar room are supported immediately afterwards by experiences on the horse and ideally reinforced. The theoretical knowledge is integrated much more quickly into participants’ own sphere of experience as a result of “learning by doing“.
It is not performance sport aspects which are in the foreground during sport mental training and coaching, but rather individual promotion of contact of the rider to the horse, favourable influencing of the well-being of horse and rider and behaviour of the rider on the horse.
The horse is a creature with many special virtues of which I take advantage:
- To be accepted. Horses accept people just as they are. Horses are not in the least interested in whether a person is “ugly“, disabled, disorientated, attractive, white, black, famous, rich, has a PhD, …
In the eyes of a horse everybody is a very special person, quite independently of their profession, how much they earn, school marks, appearance, fitness, … etc. The horse is free of moral values and independent of human social conventions and prejudices. It is equally open towards all human beings and, for example also makes it possible for social outsiders to experience the full sensation of a positive relationship, and is not in the least disturbed by unusual behavioural and movement patterns. The human being is accepted in his entirety. Kubelka-Chimani: „The horse doesn’t mind at all about what a person looks like or what kind of problems he has. The horse is equally friendly to everyone.” A horse listens to the same stories umpteen times whereas a human being would have been rolling his eyes in an agitated manner long beforehand. They are patient listeners and allow physical contact as well as inner states such as mourning – and there is no question of expecting the person concerned to put up any kind of front or keep himself under control. The horse allows and indeed enjoys physical contact to a virtually unlimited extent.
- For many people the horse is the first living being by whom they feel unconditionally accepted, completely free of any prejudice. The horse has no concept of what is normal. The horse encounters human beings without any reservations, unlike the case in encounters between human beings.
- The horse has a highly motivating effect. The horse can promote the formation of a relationship between human beings.
- Admonishing, punishment etc. – there is no need to fear such treatment from a horse. It does not bear any grudges and everyone always has a new chance to “do it right“. The horse is considerate but also consistent in its behaviour and quite clear in its body language. It reacts in a completely genuine, honest and direct way towards others – without any falsification, lies or ulterior motives. The reaction of the horse is orientated towards the moment without any delayed revenge or punishment. The horse reacts appropriately to friendly or aggressive behaviour. Whereby even the most kind-natured horse has certain limits and will not put up with everything. Interestingly, it is easier for people to accept this in dealings with horses/animals. The horse’s messages are quite clear because there is no contradiction between the linguistic contact and tone and/or gestures or between conscious statement and unconscious motivation (no “double bind”). The direct, honest reaction of the horse is suitable to establish new confidence and to observe one’s own actions in the light of the immediate feedback.
- The schooled horse subordinates itself to the human being. This experience strengthens the human being’s feeling of self-esteem.
In dealing with the horse, riding or sitting on the horse, all the senses and various different muscles are addressed. The human being is permanently in a state of interaction and dialogue with the horse.
- Actively sitting on the horse bareback without a saddle trains a human being’s sense of balance. Riders are responsible for their own balance when riding, the horse does not take over this work for them. And, by training the external balance, it is often possible to train the inner balance. And deficits in the area of balance can lead to problems in all sensory areas. Through the movement of the horse, the rider learns to coordinate his body better.
- The rider’s sense of perception is sharpened, particularly when riding the horse. The warmth exuded by the horse is pleasant for the human being. The horse’s natural body temperature is approximately one degree higher than that of a human being. The sensation of warmth has a reviving effect on human beings. To experience another living creature so close that you can directly feel its body heat is an emotional relationship in itself.
- Through the horse’s body, it is possible for the human being to experience the limits of his own body. In order to reinforce the kinaesthetic perception of the horse, I always ask my coachees to ride with their eyes closed.
- The sense of smell (O) is stimulated is many different ways in the vicinity of the horse involving a variety of pleasant and unpleasant stimuli.
Fundamental principles of NLP
It is possible to read about the content of these fundamental principles in files from NLP institutes. It is important for NLP to offer clearly structured methods of procedure in order to activate processes, to experience them and to integrate them in the entire personality and to ensue in a strengthened state from these processes. When introduced appropriately, these techniques can also be understood and appreciated by people who never had any contact with NLP before the seminar.
NLP is concerned with a person’s inner states and inner processes in connection with communication with others, and in this case “these others“ are the horses. NLP concerns the human being as a whole: Perception of all logical levels.
NLP offers possibilities to recognise and understand the model of the world of horses.
NLP makes it possible to find empathy, and this is a very important point in dealing with horses. Leaving fears and tensions behind, heading towards resources. The horse is involved here.
The involvement of NLP in equestrian sport makes it possible to mobilise resources in order to create new values and beliefs. I work with riders/clients on the logical levels. I specifically use the NLP range of instruments (including VAKOG, Anker, Meta model, Milton-model). As a consequence I am free to use a reasonable selection of possibilities in the situational context in question and also to make these accessible to my clients.
Especially in equestrian sport the following presumptions may be assumed:
Goals are more important than problems.
Communication involves perception.
Every human being has two levels of processing: The conscious and the sub-conscious.
Internal images and visual language such as body language, in contrast to the spoken or written language, have their own language. This is usually grasped intuitively by the horse. Rapport – understanding and being understood in the communication between horse and rider. The NLP range of instruments includes a number of effective procedures which make it possible to structure the communication between horse and rider in a more efficient way. – Communication between horse and rider is determined, for example by the mental situation of the rider.
We have all the resources we need within ourselves.
Coaching for Riders
Either at the beginning or at a later stage in their career, especially following an accident, many riders are confronted by some kind of blockage riding or handling the horse which stems from fear and/or stress in their dealings with horses. Riders avoid certain situations – for example, a particular route when hacking out because it involves going past a point where the horse “always rears”. I myself avoided long oxers for a considerable period because I had two bad falls over an oxer – on each occasion with long-lasting health problems as a consequence. I was afraid of oxers.
In certain situations on the jumping course, in the warm-up ring or the dressage arena even experienced competition riders and professionals show only a fraction of their possibilities, talents and ability to perform on account of nervousness, tension, pressure from the outside world, …
In our individual riding coaching, I combine aspects derived from NLP, kinesiology and the (English) theory of riding. I accompany you, together with your horse, in locating each of the various imbalances in your bodies and finding a means by which to correct them.
Coaching sessions at your home/yard are possible by special arrangement (plus travel costs and overnight expenses if applicable).
Every rider is entirely responsible for themselves and for their actions during as well as after the sport mental training/coaching.
You can find out more about training and coaching at the SportNLPAcademy® from these participants’ and clients’ comments.
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