Monday, January 9, 2012


Photo used with permission
 So, at this point, I've done just about everything to find my missing GRRRR and would do just about anything to "JUST GET OVER IT!"  So when my Eventing Trainer strongly suggested that I attend the Stressless Riding Clinic given by Eventer/Psychologist/Trainer, Andrea Waldo, MS, ICP, I did not miss a beat when I said YES, I'LL BE THERE!

Then you think, well I have read pretty much every self-help book made for mankind and every motivational make-yourself-better-in-these-three-simple-steps program, what could she possibly say or do that I haven't heard before?  Surely, we will hear all about visualizing the perfect ride, relax, meditate and use affirmations... Yada, yada, yada.  Now, it's not that I'm a naysayer 'cause I am a believer on all that...  but, let me tell you saying "I'm good enough, I'm special enough and People like me" just isn't cutting it.  Yet I went eager for a solution and a desire for a fix...

As the living room filled with riders from CT, NH, ME and MA with a great mix of ages, abilities (elementary - intermediate), perspectives (trainers, riders and instructors) and disciplines (mostly eventers with a sprinkling of equitation/hunters/breed specialist), two very important points surfaced immediately:
  • We are not alone in this quest!
  • Eventers are different - "Normal" techniques don't necessarily work for us for really good reasons.
    • What we do is dangerous - adrenalin (used properly) helps us focus, keeps us sharp and safe
    • What we do and how we need to prepare changes with each phase
The first exercise, a guided meditation,brought me to quiet tears.  Visualize the best moment you ever had with your horse - I searched my mind, hunting - yeah that was awesome, but by her second instruction, it came to me...  Riding Novice cross country at Coursebrook HT.  From the moment we left the startbox, we were one... each jump in stride, each turn balanced... the gallop effortless and free and the down-bank-bending-line-to-the ramp easy and light... when we flew over the final jump - a big table, I remember thinking that this was heaven... just Sugar and I.  I am an Eventer!  I do belong! 

She finished the meditation and said clearly...  This is why we do it!  And, although I do not know what image came to anyone else, all heads nodded as if we shared the very same.

Special Note - Forgive me Andrea if I screw up what you said...  my own interpretations take over a bit and for this, I wanted to capture a few key points that were particulary helpful to me.

Exercise two - What am I really afraid of? Keep writing things until you get stuck and then ask yourself why am I afraid of that?  And keep doing it over and over...   The most fascinating thing about this exercise is that almost every single one of us had the same fears and none of us listed pain or getting hurt in the top 10.  I would bet that the most common themes were:
  • Embarrassment
  • "I don't belong."
  • Not giving my noble horse a good ride (ruining)
  • Should be better at this/Someone is better at this
  • Perfectionism
Since I'm exceeding my own personal "length of blog" rules, let me hit on some very key points/strategies:
  • Visualization - If you can't picture the perfect ride, then picture fixing the problem
    • So instead of seeing Sugar spook, I should see me correcting the spook and getting over the jump.
  • Self-Talk - Train yourself to work Self-Talk in your favor.  Know your abilities and own them. 
    • Identify negative self-talk and delete the comment and insert what you want to happen. 
    • Encourage yourself the way you would encourage a friend
  • Live in the Present - If your horse had ditch problem at the last event, ride the horse you have now. 
    • So if you had a bad fall hunting, recognize what happened (slippery ground, no studs), correct it and then live in the present. 
    • Don't tell or listen to war stories (bad falls, missed jumps, mistakes etc) before competing (or ever).
  • Develop a Performance Self separate from your real self and use it like a costume to put on before you're ready to roll.
  • Focus - create what you want to do and not what you don't
    • Use a two point mantra ("sit up and kick")
    • Have a plan and then let it go
    • Know your food, drink and bodily needs and keep them as soothing support
    • Help your support team know what you need
  • Give yourself an Escape Route
    • Knowing you can stop/withdrawl or retire without shame significantly reduces stress which, ironically, allows you to continue.
  • Notice what went well
    • My metaphor for this is in dog training.  If you keep beating the dog every time he comes to you...  he'll eventually will just stop trying.  So if you do not find something good in what you do, why keep at it. 
I write this with oodles of hope and eagerness...  And, folks, I would highly recommend using Andrea Waldo and set up your own clinic.  You see, my experiences translates her teachings...  your experience will do the same for you.  And, I can not possibly tell you in this one post all of the stuff presented.  It was that good, don't miss it for yourself.

Andrea Waldo, MS, ICP
StressLess Riding (she does have a Facebook page under this title)

Nerves are like a bad dinner guest.  So, when you're hosting the family Thanksgiving dinner, you don't want to invite your brother-in-law (the one with the loud off color jokes who eats and drinks too much) but he comes with your beloved sister.  You can't have her without him so you need to have a Plan to deal with him. 

So, Stressless Eventing - Fact or Fiction?  Depends, you gotta invite them and it's all in how you handle them.  Phew...  Thanks Stephie Baer and Chase Farms for hosting and to Andrea Waldo for the help!  Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog stuff...  "Going Green"


Katie Murphy Eventing said...

I'm so glad you had a great experience! Cheers to a fabulous start to 2012!

KC said...

EXCELLENT post! So helpful and it makes so much sense. I think Andrea is a genius. This entry is a must for OM! So many people will get so much out of it!

Boss Mare Eventing said...

Great post...sounds like an excellent seminar.

Liz Goldsmith said...

Sounds like a very worthwhile seminar. For what it's worth, #1 on my l list of things to be afraid of: Getting hurt!

Probably #2 would be telling my husband I got hurt riding!

Becca said...

Great post Suzanne - thank you so much for sharing!!!