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Mindset: Finding Motivation to Ride during Lockdown by Danielle Pooles

Mindset: Finding Motivation to Ride during Lockdown by Danielle Pooles

We're so excited to welcome our very first guest blogger, Danielle Pooles, to the Podium Equestrian blog! Danielle is a qualified EA riding coach, life coach and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner, as well as, the owner of Dressage Plus - Equestrian Performance Coaching. To add to that impressive resumé, Danielle has also competed all the way up to Prix St George! We know that everyone is struggling to varying degrees through these lockdowns, so we asked Danielle to jump on the blog to chat to you guys about how to find motivation to ride and keep striving towards your goals during these trying times. Over to Danielle..

Hi Team Podium, thanks so much for having me on your blog!

With all the competitions on hold due to the COVID lockdown, are you struggling to find motivation to ride? 

As a Mindset Equestrian Coach, I have found that one of the biggest challenges that riders are facing currently is the lack of motivation to go saddle up. 

This sparks the deeper question of, ‘why do you ride’? 

It’s more than fine to ride to fulfil the competition drive within you. 

In fact, this will probably make you a very good competitor, and give you an edge over others on competition day. 

However, as riding is a partnership with an animal that doesn’t have the goal to compete, and given the weird circumstances we find ourselves in, uncovering a deeper why in your riding can create a stronger internal drive to go saddle up, grow and improve, even when the external drive of competing isn’t possible. 

We could even go as far as to say that the drive to perform well at a competition, which leads to you adding in more rides and training better and more focused, is what we call an external motivator

It is an external motivator, because competing is a way to measure our success. Competing can also be a way to impress the people around us, (peers and rivals!), or please our coach, parents, or loved ones. 

Competing, on an unhealthy level, can become a way to prove yourself worthy. Which can also lead to the devastation and failure we feel when we have a bad competition day, (this is a whole other blog post in its self!). 

Therefore, when you take the competitions away, the motivation to keep up regular rides drops! 

There is nothing wrong with using the external drive (to perform well at competitions) to motivate you to ride more consistently, however, as I’m seeing in my coaching business, this mindset is leaving lots of riders feeling unmotivated in the current situation where they have no competitions to ride towards, to base their goals or success off. 

So how do you create motivation in your riding when in the past you have used competitions to drive you? 

You need to look within; you need to find internal motivators to get out and ride. 

By this I mean, you need to uncover your internal why for riding…

Why did you start riding in the first place? 

What do you enjoy most about riding? 

Start there, you might even find you need to change how you’re currently riding to recreate that internal riding pleasure. 

For example, if you remember how much you loved going for trail rides as a child and relaxing with your horse, then maybe you need to plan that into your next ride. 

Or, if you can’t trail ride with the lockdown, maybe you can ‘play’ with your horse, do some liberty work or free lunging? 

If you uncover that you love the technical side of training new movements, watch a YouTube clip of a movement you haven’t ridden before and get out there and start practising and fuelling your internal why to grow and improve. 

On top of following your deeper why, create some new internal goals or focus areas.

Ok, so you can’t compete, but that doesn’t stop you learning a dressage test from the next level up and having a crack at home! 

Or, setting up some new, more challenging show jumping grids and refining your eye. 

What I’m getting at here, is that to re-spark your motivation to maintain your training throughout lockdown, you need to re-focus your short-term goals. Give your brain something to look forward to practising so you want to go saddle up. 

And know yourself here, don’t make the goal so hard you're put off by it or scared of it. Just make it challenging enough that the idea of achieving it excites you. 

When setting short term goals, a great place to start is to look back at past competition days and identify areas where you feel you are not performing as well as you would like.

Depending on your discipline, you could be looking at improving certain movements, transitions, lateral work or accuracy. 

However, if you look back at recent competitions and notice a certain theme that kept popping up, for example, negative tension, refusals, water jump issues, stress (from rider or horse!), floating issues, horse shyness in warm ups, etc, then now is the perfect time to set goals on working towards improving these situations. 

As a mindset coach, it goes without saying, that I of course suggest using this lockdown time to focus in on improving and growing your competition mindset

The power of understanding how to use visualisation in both training and for competition days is one of the most powerful exercises you could learn. 

Lockdown, with no immediate pressure of competitions, is the best time to be working with a coach to improve your visualisation technique and competition mindset. 

Don’t waste these months just getting by in your riding, just keeping your horse in work to keep the weight off them. 

If you’re going to go to the effort of saddling up each week, then you might as well use that time in the saddle to focus on improving at least one area in your riding so you come out of lockdown ahead in your training and not behind! 

You will look back and thank yourself for it when you finally do get to compete again!! 

Happy training! 


P.S. If you have any specific questions at all around motivation, or just any challenges in your riding, please feel free to reach out to me via direct message through my Instagram or Facebook.

You can also learn more about Mindset Performance Coaching and watch lots of free video blogs on my website 

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