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Tue, 2012-07-31 12:35

Daniel Stewart Question & Tip of the Month

Authored By: Daniel Stewart

Question of the Month

Jeremy Asks "I have a really hard time dealing with mistakes. I seem to make a lot, and when I do I get pretty frustrated and disappointed.  Do you have any suggestions that can help"? 


While coping with mistakes can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, it is one of the most important skills any rider can develop because it is not a matter of if we are going to make a mistake but when.  Before answering your question it might help you to know that all riders make mistakes. In fact, successful riders often make the most mistakes of all because they have the confidence to push themselves rather than playing it safe to avoid making mistakes. Instead of dwelling on mistakes they contemplate them, identify their causes, regroup, and find solutions.  They know that mistakes can provide important feedback on how they are doing and that this feedback can be used to lessen the chance of the mistake happening again in the future.  They know that the more mistakes they make the more feedback they will receive and the more successful they will ultimately become. Here are a few suggestions on how you can do this:    

  • Release- Immediately after making a mistake, let go of any frustration and disappointment so that you can avoid dwelling on it.
  • Rethink - Quickly replace any negative thoughts with positive ones like the motivating motto "It's not over until it's over."
  • Relax - Release any tension by taking a slow, deep breath while repeating a word like "Relax" or a phrase like "Let it go."
  • Refocus- Benefit from the mistake by telling yourself what you learned from it (find your feedback).
  • Rehearse- Practice this when you make mistakes in your lessons so that you will be well prepared for them when they occur in your shows. 

When it comes to mistakes, always remember to view them as:

Learning Opportunities not Missed Opportunities 

Thanks for the great question, Jeremy!

Tip of the Month

Mental Multi-Tasking 

Even though many of us may think that we can focus on several things at once, we are not nearly as good at mental multi-tasking as we might believe.  Our minds are wired for something called selective attention, meaning that we can only focus on one thing at a time (we must select what we pay attention to).  This means that if we want to fully focus on a dressage test or jump course we must avoid focusing on distractions like past mistakes, opponents, or the crowd. Even momentarily shifting our attention to a mistake, opponent or crowd can cause us to underperform because we become something called inattentionally blinded (we are no longer able to focus - we become blinded - because we are shifting our attention between too many things).  Texting while driving is a good example. We may be great at texting and great at driving but do them together and our skill in both will likely drop dramatically.  The same thing happens when we ride a test while thinking of the judge or ride a course while thinking of standings.

Below is a short list of things you might want to consider focusing on: 

  • Yourself instead of others (focus on the best and forget the rest). 
  • The present moment instead of past mistakes or future standings.
  • The solution to problems instead of the problems themselves.
  • Things you can control instead of things out of your control.
  • Optimism instead of pessimism, self-belief instead of excuses. 
  • Your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

When it comes to our riding it's always a good idea to:

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

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