“My first world championships – together with Team Germany aspiring to meet the expectations – that’s a whole new level of challenge. I think in some way, everyone has felt that way who has prepared for a certain situation for a long time that’s important to you: where your delivery has to be on point, where you want to show off your best,” says Benjamin. “Of course I’m nervous in that situation. I have made it a habit to accept this nervousness instead of trying to fight it. I see it as something positive. After all, the increased adrenaline output helps you to focus and to perform better. This is something you can practice in everyday life with small challenges.”
Be in Your Own World
Total focus is important and practically visible. If you have seen Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s Olympic freestyle, you can’t help but feel that she and Dalera were moving in their own world: undeterred, beaming, and focused. It takes this kind of focus to optimally ride a test at a show and to perform at one’s best. The keyword here is mental strength. “The greatest exercise – and this also remains the greatest exercise for me – is to stay in the here and now and not to think about any possible results,” Jessica explains. “To be in the here and now means to always focus on what to do at every moment. This means that I focus on the center line when I enter the ring, then the halt, then the trot transition…” It takes practice to be able to access this level of focus. “On one hand, I bring the here and now into my awareness. On the other hand, I practice by failing often because I was not in the here and now and then making myself become aware of that,” the Olympic champion recalls. “Calm and even breathing as well as telling yourself what to do can be very helpful as well. We can regulate our pulse and muscle tensions with our breath,” Benjamin explains while Jessica adds that she has been able to witness many times how her horses’ breathing has adjusted to hers.
Personal Development as an Important Component of Mental Strength
Mental strength is related to personal development or rather to one’s willingness to grow, to accept new ideas, take on challenges, and perhaps also to say goodbye to old habits. “In my view, personal development is a way of life, whether you want to continue growing,” says Jessica. “For me, it’s about much more than medals and showing. For me, it’s about being fulfilled by what I do, to love what I do. And I want to transfer this love to the horses so that we can mutually enjoy achieving something. And I also remined myself frequently that I’m still the little girl who wants to dance with horses.”
Benjamin adds: “Personal development can’t be described in a few words. For me, it’s the willingness to work on yourself, to self-reflect, and to want to improve.” Over the years, Jessica and Benjamin have developed a kind of “mental strength toolbox” which includes different meditations and breathing exercises. Jessica: “Rituals also help me in challenging situations. These rituals give me and my horses confidence. They could be small, normal things such as a certain way of doing something, certain preparations.”
Be in the Flow
Focus, fun, and lightness – what does it feel like to be in the flow, to ride in your own world and to access all your skills? Jessica: “It’s a feeling of complete presence. In that moment, you no longer perceive the outside. I am not really aware of how many people and who is sitting out there when go around and enter the show ring. I only notice this afterward – which is a good thing. And it’s a feeling of clarity. When I’m in a state of flow, I don’t question or doubt anything. I’m in my element, confident, and in each moment certain what the next step will be.”
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