Improving rider performance: all in the mind

  • In the spring, I was lucky enough to attend a British Equestrian Federation World Class Performance Seminar at Hartpury College organised for the Olympic and Paralympic teams.

    Over two days, the riders received a programme designed to set them up physically and mentally for the Olympic year.

    We may acknowledge that to win medals takes luck, but the theme of the two days was that you can set about making your own luck – a philosophy that isn’t just limited to Olympic riders, but to all competitors.

    Particularly inspiring was the key-note speaker Bill Beswick, currently assistant coach at Middlesborough Football Club, but with a long CV in high-level sports coaching, including a spell at Manchester United.

    He articulated his “10 commandments for success” – most of them based on organising the competitive mind to work positively. These are as applicable to anyone reading this as to the Olympians, and are as follows:

    • I believe in myself
    • My self talk will always be positive
    • l come to compete every day
    • I will not surrender
    • I will not turn against myself during tough times
    • I cannot choose what is happening around me but I will choose how I respond
    • I will use setbacks as learning opportunities
    • I will focus on my strengths and contain my weaknesses
    • I understand my role as a team member is to help my team-mates win
    • I will not come second best to myself
    • You will no doubt be wondering what on earth this has to do with nutrition?

    To me, preparation is the answer to achieving a positive state of mind. Any rider entering the ring with full confidence will have built up that state of mind in the knowledge that they have done all they can at home in preparation. This means the attention to detail behind the scenes, from grooms and owners, from farrier to feed and from training to tack.

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