Enhancing Dressage Performance with Conscious

By Michael J. Russ


Welcome to part three of my series on enhancing your performance with conscious self-talk. If you haven’t yet read the first two articles in my series, please take the time to read them so you can fully benefit from this step in the series.
To recap:

  • Part One of this series discussed the importance of defining your goals and intentions for participation in dressage.
  • Part Two pointed out the relevance of discovering the nature of the self-talk you are currently using to describe yourself in relation to the goals and intentions you’ve identified.
  • Part Three Now we’ll discuss how to defy the self-talk that is sabotaging your goals and intentions.

The dilemma facing most riders is that they aren’t aware how self-talk influences their performance in the arena. Self-talk impacts many aspects of your physical experience, including your self-confidence, body language, presence and state of mind while performing. It can even affect the relationship you have with your horse. According to Jeremy Beale, a well known trainer, “the vibe created from negative self-talk can undermine your horse’s confidence in you. This can be disastrous in the competitive arena! The warm-up may have gone really well, but negative thoughts can undermine all that, once one goes into the ring.”

Definition of 'Defy Self Talk'

To defy means to resist, oppose boldly or openly, or dare to prove something. Defying negative thoughts about you requires constant vigilance, because it is easier to maintain an old pattern than to create a new one. Top level competitors know that a tiny seed of doubt translates into a severe disadvantage. There are steps you can take that will help you successfully defy the unsupportive aspects of what you are thinking and saying about yourself; awareness and action.

The first step you want to take is to heighten your awareness. Begin monitoring your self-talk as you practice and compete, so you can stop negative dialogue before it influences your results. As you warm up before a competition, if you have difficulty with a certain movement, become aware of your mental dialogue. Your horse has nerves too and might be reacting to your level of confidence. Under these circumstances, top level trainer I spoke with suggests that you “ride as confidently as you do at home, so your horse can derive confidence from you.”

Your second step is to stop making unfavorable, unsupportive and doubtful comments about yourself and what you are doing. Stop them completely, even if you are joking. In the end, humor is just a way of covering up what you really think and feel about yourself. Think of your mind as a crystal clear spring; unsupportive self-talk is toxic waste that is dumped into it. It is likely that you think and say things every day that pollute your mind and taint what you experience. Eliminating negative self-talk will have a significant affect on your experience as a rider because in doing so, you eliminate a major barrier to achievement. You become more accepting of information that can help you improve.

This one-two punch of awareness and action is the key to getting rid of the unsupportive self-talk that is holding you back from realizing your true potential as a dressage rider.

Try This To Put Yourself on the Fast Track

An exercise you can use to put yourself on the fast track is to stop yourself in mid-thought or mid-sentence when you find yourself using unsupportive self-talk. Get your friends and family involved by having them point out whenever you refer to yourself in a way that is unsupportive, doubtful, or in contradiction to your stated goals. This kind of positive peer pressure will have you defying negative self-talk in no time at all.

In an effort to further fortify your ability to defy unsupportive self-talk, begin defying it in every other area of your life as well. The attitude you take into the arena is a direct reflection of your attitude outside the arena. Make it consistent. Make it self-supportive. Make it reflect the winner you are. In the next part of this series, you will learn how to consciously design self-talk that will have you bringing your best into the arena.

This Five Part series is based on the five-step self-talk program outlined in the audio book, Design Your Life: Using Self-Talk to Create Your Life One Day at a Time, by Michael J. Russ.

Michael J. Russ is an empowering speaker and trainer who is has authored several audio books on the mental side of golf, life and sales. His other titles include Powerful Self-Talk, Powerful Golf, and Powerful Sales which can be seen at his website powerfulliving.org. Michael is also available for individual coaching and can be reached at powerfulliving@msn.com

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Powerful Living by Michael J. Russ