Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: Learn to Ride Using Sports Psychology

Okay, first of all, right?! Is this book not titled specifically for me?

Answer: DUH. Yes it is.

If you guys have been following this blog for approximately three posts, you'll know that after I had a non-falling crash that gave me a concussion, my confidence went right down the shitter over fences. Raised ground pole? Yeah, no. Fuck that. I've regained some of my chops over very tiny fences thanks to some serious schooling sessions on Bobby from BM that have rendered him moderately more rideable when faced with striped sticks, but I am a grand champion at getting in my own head.

A couple weeks ago while I was putting my stuff away after a ride, Hubby was perusing the bookshelf in the tack room and pulled this book. Flipping through it, he showed me this picture:

And was like, "Look! This is exactly what you need to do with jumping." So I took the book home in hopes that it would cure all my riding with an injured brain (and not just physically) problems.

The Specs:

Title: Learn to Ride Using Sports Psychology
Authors: Petra and Wolfgang Holzel
Buy Me: Found on Amazon for a whopping $0.15 used.
Other Shit: This book was published in 1996 by German trainers/husband and wife pair.

The book is eight chapters, and each chapter is broken down into several specific, linear parts. For instance, the chapter on jumping is set out like so:

  • Riding in the light or half seat:
    • Aim: Why you're doing what you're being told to do.
    • Method of learning: How to psychologically get prepared to go into learning this new thing. Usually it's "Take a private!"
    • Suggestions for the instructor: This book is not just for the feeble minded beginner or learning rider. It also targets trainers and how they should approach these feeble minded riders.
  • Jumping:
    • Same bullets as before
  • Tips for dealing with any problems which may arise:
    • I actually really like this break down. It gives you a few common scenarios (My horse is rushing, I'm getting left behind and catching my horse in the mouth, etc.) and then breaks down what might be going wrong and how you can change what you're doing to fix it.
  • Suggestions for the instructor:
    • How to troubleshoot any problems your feeble minded rider(s) might be experiencing. 
it also has some excellent drawings.
salsa dancing, guitar playing, and ball fondling anyone?

The book is all bullet points, and I read it from start to finish pretty easily. Scattered throughout are Important Tips and Instructor's Tips. There are a few chapters aimed at beginner-beginners--those who have never taken a riding lesson before in their lives--which weren't particularly useful or enthralling to me, but they were a good brush up on the absolute basics that would certainly be helpful for someone in that position. 

As far as the psychological aspect that this book touts, I'm not really sure I bought into it. The main concept was to visualize every aspect of what exercise you're working on--really break it down by each step and memorize how it felt to ride the movement correctly until it's so ingrained in your head that you do it automatically and stop psyching yourself out over it.

They call it "self talk", and you're supposed to work with your trainer to come up with code words to remind yourself of how to ride the movements correctly. When in doubt, go through your self talk to remember not only your aids, but also that you are a relaxed, in-control person and not a total fucking spaz. The self talk will make it easier to put these positive affirmations into action.

It's a good theory for sure, but not one that I think will do anything for me. I'm very into positive visualization leading up to a show, and I absolutely obsess over every step my horse is going to take in a dressage test or jumping round. I don't picture run outs, spooking, or stops. So far it hasn't helped me much, but I will certainly be testing some of these breathing and relaxation techniques.

perhaps i need to be more relaxed in my face?
oh, wait. i'm too freaked out by this picture.
 All of that said, I was able to pull some good tid-bits out that apply to myself.

  • "I will tell myself what I can do, and what I intend to learn. I will not tell myself what I cannot do." Have some self confidence and don't be afraid to talk yourself up. You should be proud of your accomplishments and not drag yourself down for your mistakes. 
  • "I will not let myself be put off or 'psyched out' by other people! It is for me and my instructor to judge what is good for me." Don't get distracted by how other people are warming up at shows. If you have a good routine at home, don't change it. Stay focused, stay relaxed, and stay positive.
  • "Fear is not only a risk factor in itself. It can also paralyze you and persistently block the learning processes, because it monopolizes your concentration and energy." Particularly relevant for me right now with my jumping fears. 
  • "At the FIRST SIGN OF LOSS OF IMPULSION, however slight, immediately RIDE YOUR HORSE FORWARD AGAIN ON A STRAIGHT LINE." Their caps and bolding, and rightly so. This is basically the summation of every one of my ride recaps. Go forward!!!
  • "Do no stop until your horse is going the same way as you would like him to between the jumps." BM? Is that you? Land from the jump and make your horse get his shit together and keep cantering like a trained animal. In the problem solving section of this same chapter, it also goes on to say (among other good things), "Turn on to the circle, get the horse under control, and come back to the trot only when the canter is right."
  • "Tell yourself: I will stop at the 'last jump but one'." Basically, end on a good note and don't push yourself past your comfort zone to the point where it becomes unsafe. 
Would I recommend this book? For fifteen cents, fuck yeah I would. Even though it might not be the right brain training for me, that doesn't mean someone else wouldn't benefit from these methods. On top of that, there really was a lot of good morsels of information to be picked out, and there's no such thing as too many positive affirmations!


  1. That is definitely 15 cents' worth of advice! What a good find! I've found that doing the same sort of breathing I do when I'm yoga-ing is really helpful for relaxation and focus.

  2. Those are some good tidbits of advice :)

    The face picture is terrifying.

  3. I would give this a shot for that price.

  4. That picture... the stuff of nightmares

  5. Book: $0.15
    Mental image of me throwing away my box of troubles as I canter carefree toward a jump: Priceless

  6. omg those illustrations are something else entirely haha

  7. Its all "easier said than done" in my book. I"m trying to let go of fear too


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