Sarah Jenkins: fight or flight responses

  • Whether your heart rate is going through the roof because you’re in the start box, outside the interview room, or about to get on stage, knowing how to control the cause of it can make the difference between success and failure. Top riders can transform fear into excitement. They can channel their adrenaline into creating an epic performance instead of letting it paralyze them into inaction.

    Horse sport is unquestionably dangerous — and some of the activities covered in our adrenaline junkies feature (Also see H&H magazine Thursday 22 January, 2015) are beyond borderline crazy — so it’s little wonder our bodies on occasion ask us: “Is this wise? Really? Are you absolutely sure?”.

    Meanwhile it endeavours to equip us with the fight or flight responses we may well need in such a scenario — not realising that, yes, we have actually signed up to do this. Paid money for the privilege, even.

    That psychology coaches and other experts are able to train top riders to make adrenaline work for them rather than against them is yet another tool in the armoury of our best athletes — and one which amateur riders can just as well capitalise on.

    I find the topic fascinating — it explains why I always experienced the urge to have a nap before going cross-country, rather than feeling fired-up in the start box. Not to mention why, heading towards that first fence, though thinking now is the moment when I really must put my legs on, my legs put their fingers in their ears and sang: “La, la, la, can’t hear you!”.

    Meanwhile, it seems unfeasible that equines could be considered a “species in crisis”. With particular breeds, including Dales, moving steadily down the rare breeds’ critical list, never has the work of rare breed societies been more important. And it is time for all equestrian enthusiasts to lend their support.


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