It takes more than physical skill to be successful. The capacity to produce top performances at exactly the right moment and to think clearly under pressure is essential. Mental training helps to increase awareness of your actions, and to stabilize and strengthen on a physical, emotional, and mental level. It addresses your own conviction of your ability to master challenges. Mental training in sports psychology includes visualization, i.e. to repeatedly imagine action sequences. This teaches you to focus as well as stay focused over longer periods of time.
When visualizing, you imagine how you would carry out an action in an ideal scenario, or what you may want to improve compared to previous actions. This imagined ideal scenario is meant to improve the real actions that are executed following the mental rehearsal. The better you can conceive the action, the more intensely you can imagine yourself in the motion or environment, recreate feelings, and absorb sounds, the greater the impact later. Studies show that visualization can have enormous effects on athletic achievements.
Jessica uses mental training to prepare for shows. For example, right before a test, she retreats to a quiet corner and rides the test “with all her senses” from beginning to end. This includes imagining the sound of the judge’s bell, the feeling of the reins in her hands, and every single movement of her horse – and of her own body. Jessica asserts:“This is an optimal training technique for me to enter the ring well prepared and with an even greater sense of self-confidence.”
Success Through Visualization – Try it Yourself:
- Find a quiet space and close your eyes. Ride your entire test from beginning to end. If you haven’t memorized the entire test, start with the first three movements and repeat them until you can ride with precision, and you do not get distracted. Then add the next three movements and connect them to the first three. This way you can string together the entire test.
- Then you internalize the way you feel in the saddle and how you are giving your aids while you are riding your test. Imagine each movement in its optimal quality and visualize what you have to do – and how you have to sit – in order to develop this perfect quality of movement.
- The goal of this mental rehearsal is a visualization of your perfect test, from entering at A to the final salute.
In the beginning, this type of mental training may feel unfamiliar, but “practice makes perfect.” Visualization will help you undo old habitual patterns and turn them into new, positive patterns. And it’s a great opportunity to mentally solidify good habits and improve your riding by leaps and bounds.
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