Focus and Being Present While Riding: What’s Important, and How Can I Practice That?
Day in and day out, we are exposed to a virtually limitless barrage of – mostly inconsequential – information. “That’s why clarity is everything,” Benjamin emphasizes. “You have to make space in your mind to be receptive to new input.” There are several ways of clearing your head: “Personally, I find that riding itself brings me clarity, I am psychologically more relaxed after having ridden. But meditating regularly is also very helpful. In doing so, I focus on my breath which is something I can transfer to the saddle as well. There, I have to concentrate too – on the horse, my riding, keeping the jump in the pirouette, for example, or that the poll remains the highest point. That’s when I enter a state of flow.” Every morning, Benjamin sets aside a few minutes to focus on his breath. “That increases my ability to learn and my sense of productivity. I am more in the here and now.”
The dressage pro has another piece of advice for being more present and focused when riding: “When I’m distracted, I talk to my horse. By talking, I can be fully with him. I can bring my concentration back to what’s most important. Or I might ride a walk transition to re-focus. I am practically pushing the reset button.”
A Special Type of Challenge: Riding a Test
One skill is crucial to successfully ride a test: focus. Benjamin sums it up succinctly: “always wanting to ride the next movement, not dwelling on mistakes, and looking ahead.” “Show nerves should be accepted and turned into positive energy. This can be deliberately practiced, just like push-ups. You clear your mind. That doesn’t mean that I’m never nervous at shows, but most of the time, I’m able to focus on my strengths and to positively “program” myself. Moreover, I focus on the development, not just the end-result. That means my goal is not to place in the number one, two, or three spot, instead I focus on what I want to do well, for example to successfully perform certain movements. Success then becomes a result of the development.”
In the below video interview, Benni explains what he means by “flow;” and Jessica illuminates just how interconnected your own level of body control and the relaxation- and focus-level of your horse are. Concentration, focus, and body control are also great countermeasures against the “bogeyman” in the corner of the arena.
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