How Visualization Can Help Your Dressage
Multi tasking and doing lots of things at once is essentially being distracted and often the more we multi task the less we can get done and often the poorer quality. However when we focus on one thing at a time and perform it at our best we can really master it.
The truth is in this modern word distraction is everywhere and your ability to keep your mind focused in the right way, at the right time is suffering. Visualization along side mindfulness is one way to train your mind to remain focused and full of intention in the present moment. This doesn’t just apply for dressage either. This is a tool to help you perform your best at many things.
10,000 hours is what they say it takes to master a skill and I mean really master. So it makes sense that we spend some of those hours visualizing our performance and improving our ability to stay focused to get there quicker. I mean how many times have you mentally run through test and gotten distracted by something around the house in that short time frame. Try it, close your eyes and imagine yourself riding your test. Every movement and notice how many times your mind wants to jump away from that task at hand. The only way to improve this is to practice.
In dressage we have to focus on the movement ahead of us and not the movement we just performed, otherwise you can’t do a good test. So this requires you to be here and now. In the moment and not worrying about whats going on over the other side or how rushed your centre line just was. Visualization is not only powerful to help with being more mindful but it also helps you to practice correctly and practice being present. Its a really powerful tool to help change old negative patterns, and reshape them into new positive ones.
To be a truly successful rider it requires effort, energy and discipline. On and off the horse.
Focus is the ability to stay completely involved in your performance and your ability to remove distraction. I like the word piercing focus when it comes to achieving your goals and piercing focus on the goal at hand. This is hard and it definitely wont be there all the time. But understanding whats required will help you train yourself to be better. 1% better each ride.
In order to practice your visualization sit down in a quiet space, close your eyes and practice riding your test from start to finish. If you don’t know your test, spend time breaking down the movements. Visualize the first three moves and keep repeating those until you know them precisely and you can visualize yourself doing them without distraction, then add another 3 to that and close your eyes and run through them joined together. Keep adding until you can close your eyes and visualize the entire test from start to finish.
Now that you have learnt the movements, now visualize the feeling. How your feeling, the aids and take away the thinking of what comes next. Picture each movement having the finest quality you can imagine, what do you need to be doing, how do you need to sit in order to create that.
The key is to keep practicing your test until you know your every movement, from how you set your horse up through to the last halt. Visualize your perfect test without distraction. Then try visualize how you may cope with potential problems. What sort of rider are you in that moment to over come it. For example if you know your horse spooks in a certain place, how are you going to ride through this. Then run through your test again with piercing focus, getting more and more in tune with how it feels and training yourself to not get distracted. Every day will be different, but the more you do this the better you will get on the horse.
Practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes permanent. We all have habits when we ride that through repeated action can be permanent. Whether or not they are good or bad. We make permanent by repetition. Visualization is a great way to create and reinforce new good habits mentally and help you take your riding to the next level.