By The PonyApp
February 21, 2020
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Just like professional athletes in any sport, you have to learn from past experiences and consistently be inspecting your own performances to improve your game. When it comes to riding horses, it’s no different.
Football players watch game tapes. Golfers review videos of their swings. For equestrians, there are countless ways you can learn from your own rides by re-watching your rounds and finding specific things you can improve on for next time — regardless of the results of a class.
Whether you are an Olympic-level rider or just starting out, it is important to make sure you are just as much mentally up for the challenge as you and your horse are physically prepared to jump the next course.
We sat down with 5* Grand Prix rider and Double H Farm trainer Quentin Judge to learn a bit more about what type of mental preparation it takes to be a top rider in the sport.
The “Pre-Ride Mental Prep”
Before a big class, do you have a routine to mentally prepare? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
Quentin Judge and HH Whiskey Royale (© Noelle Floyd courtesy of Double H Farm)
“I try to vizualize what I want my round to look like, and then think critically about riding a calm, confident round and not worry about the result.” — Quentin Judge
Before a big class I try to find a few minutes to myself to set goals and focus on what I am trying to accomplish in that day.
For me, I often put too much emphasis on a “big” class and find myself riding with too much pressure because of it, so if anything, my end goal for bigger classes is to ride them as positively as I do walking into smaller classes.
The “Post-Ride and Analyze”
After competing, is there anything you do that helps you to learn from your round?
“Recording my rounds to be able to reference them to see what we did well and what we need to work on is a critical part of our routine.” — Quentin Judge
I like to go back and watch specific parts of my horses rounds from a few different classes, maybe how they jumped a combination for example, to see what I was doing when they jumped it the best and try to do the same next time.
Sometimes I don’t want to watch a bad round, but even in those cases I try to find something positive I can take away or to learn from it.
I am always working on details of my riding that may be more apparent to me as something I know I need to work on, and I love sitting down with my students at the end of the show day to watch their videos with them and see where we can make adjustments.
When Faced with Mental Obstacles
In the world of horses, things don’t always go as planned. How do you reset after a class where things didn’t go as well as you had hoped?
Being totally honest, I freak out a bit at first…
"After that, I watch the video of the round with someone that will be able to give me an honest assessment of my riding, and then I get back to basics.” — Quentin Judge
That person is normally my wife, Cayce, and then for me getting back to basics usually includes a few gymnastics that I know myself and my horses do well! I jump them to give us both confidence and then I go forward to the next show.
As a trainer, you also occasionally have to assume the role of a “life coach”. What do you tell your students after a tough round?
Quentin and Double H Farm students Joey Wölffer and Caitlin Creel © Kaitlyn Karssen
When our students are nervous or anxious, I find myself reminding them that it is ok to be nervous and to be honest about it!
I have made it a practice of saying to a member of our team “I am nervous” when I feel it. They normally look at me and say “Oh……ok”. But, I find that saying it immediately diminishes the feeling by a large amount.
“Telling my students to be more compassionate towards themselves and to make space for the nerves that come up during competition reminds me to do the same with myself. “ — Quentin Judge
In summation, video is a crucial part of the routine for success, especially as it restores our brains with some of the objectivity lost in the heat of battle. To quote Texas head basketball coach Shaka Smart, “The tape don’t lie.”