Horsemanship and Personal Performance by Barbra Schulte
Have you ever had someone tap you on the arm to get your attention? Your response was probably to turn and see what was going on.
But sometimes, we are in the middle of something and we can’t respond right away. Most people stop tapping if we don’t respond.
But let’s pretend like they didn’t stop. They just kept tapping. Let’s also pretend like we absolutely could not give that person attention for a couple of minutes, but they kept tapping anyway. What would happen? Chances are we would grow numb to the tap.
Our horses are the same. If we ask for a leg yield from a horse and he gives it to us, but we don’t release the pressure, pretty soon he will grow numb to the leg pressure.
Horses get numb in their mouth, or on their sides because we don’t release and reward them for a try or a clear response. Maybe we were too busy talking to someone else or thinking about something else. Pretty soon the horse says, “Nobody’s home here. I’ll just push against the bit.”
Or maybe we got impatient and didn’t wait for our horse to respond, so we released the pressure when they were pushing against our hands or feet. In this case we just reinforced them for the “numb” response.
Horses are largely trained by release of pressure. That is one of their biggest rewards.
A question I often get is how to get rid of nerves.
There are a number of strategies and practices for staying calm and focused. They all have to do with replacing your nervousness with clarity about what you really want and positive, empowering emotions.
One of my favorite strategies is humor. Who doesn’t love to laugh? So the next time you start feeling like anxiety is going to pick you up and carry you away, try one or more of the following ideas. They are designed to be humorous … and … to replace your nerves with positive emotions and focus.
Strategy #1: Belly Breathing
Ever feel like you’re so nervous, you’re going to get sick to your stomach and perhaps lose your lunch? When that awful feeling hits, try these ideas.
First, breathe slowly and deeply all the way down into your stomach. At the same time, place a pretend large warm towel over your tummy to “warm it up.”
Why does this work? The abdomen is the physical center of your emotions. That’s why when you become anxious, your stomach feels like it’s tied in knots. When you breathe into your tummy and relax it, you relax your emotions too because the mind, the body and our emotions are inseparable. The imaginary warmth of the towel adds even more comfort to the area and more ease to your frazzled state of mind and body.
Strategy #2: Sit Down and Shut Up
Does your mind ever just keep yacking and yacking at about 1000 miles an hour? Does it keep going on and on about negative “what ifs” that make you feel like balling up in the fetal position?
Try this … pretend like those thoughts are coming from some weirdo stranger in your head. Mentally grab the creature by the collar, set it down right next to you and tell it to “SHUT UP.” Talk to it! Tell it, “For goodness sakes … ZIP IT!” Giggle and then commence talking to yourself about what you really want to happen. This is an effective and very funny thing to do. The ruder you can be to that stranger … the better!
Strategy #3: Carrot Noses
Have you ever worried about what other people think?
Next time, pretend like they all have big carrot noses. I’m not saying this to be disrespectful to anyone. I’m suggesting this idea to get you laughing and so distract yourself from your Nervous Nellie thoughts so you can get back to focusing on your job.
Another idea is to pretend as if huge mud globs are raining down from sky and falling all around everyone. They are aghast! Again, you are using your imagination to distract yourself from needless worry, with humor.
These two techniques disable your worrisome thoughts about others so you can get back to focusing on your job at hand.
Barbra is a personal performance coach for all riders, a cutting horse trainer, author, speaker, clinician and 2012 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee. Visit her Blog and signup to receive her FREE monthly email newsletter, “News From Barbra”. Go now to BarbraSchulte.com.
This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 4
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