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3. The more you can focus on what you did right, in this case
riding in the fow, the more often you will be able to create it and
for longer periods of time, in or out of competition.
4. Use visualization/mental rehearsal before you ride, while
riding and after you ride. You can develop motor skills, your use
of proper aids, through visual practice. While visualizing, focus on
feeling your performance (like you are on your horse blindfolded)
more than actually seeing it.       
5. Turn off the “mental director” in your head while practicing
and ride from your instincts, feel and reactions. Correct your horse
through your feel and aids.
6. While watching videos of yourself “feel” the corrections when
you see mistakes. Watch videos of good riders who ride in the
same style as you. Make believe you are on their horse. Watch
the rider’s feel, balance and aids and try to “feel” them as you are
watching. This is a very effective way to learn how to coordinate
your aids, practice rein length, balance, rhythm and relaxation.
Good luck developing your own inner mirror!
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Sports Psychology
By Ann S. Reilly, Ph. D.
A few weeks ago I turned on the TV and a movie about ballet
dancing was on. I never got the title of the movie; but it had a
message for dancers as well as riders trying to become the best
they can be. The message: When developing your talent and skill,
instead of looking in the mirror, develop the mirror inside yourself
so you can feel what you are performing.
As riders, we look at photos, videos, in mirrors and rely on
other’s observations to “see” how we are doing. Learning to “feel”
our performance is an intrinsic goal to strive for. When “feeling”
what you are performing you become one with your horse. You
become so engulfed in the ride that you forget about nerves, trying
too hard, being too robotic and allow the “fow” of the performance.
Developing the “mirror within” can be accomplished by letting
go of consciously trying too hard to control your horse, relaxing
and focusing your attention in the present, on each stride, on
feeling and maintaining the rhythm, balance and straightness of
your horse.
To get into this state, you do need to know what the correct
rhythm, balance and straightness for your horse are. Once you
have learned what it feels like, trust your feel and your ability to
stay in the present with each stride in order to achieve the fow.
When riding in an overly analytical state, you are in your brain,
not trusting the mirror within and trusting can make the required
adjustments through your aids to maintain a fowing performance.
Developing the mirror within takes practice on and off your horse.
External feedback as to how you are learning and progressing
through lessons, videos, photos and scores are helpful aids to
learning the inner feel. Alone, they do not transform how you are
doing to “having the inner mirror.” The transformation comes from
within yourself.
Tips for Developing the Inner Mirror
1. Practice without external feedback. Focus your attention on
feeling the movement of your horse and correcting the horse with
your aids when necessary.
2. Forget about the results. For example, in dressage, one judge
may give you a 70 and another a 53 for the same ride. Believe
neither, forget the results and focus on the parts of the ride where
you felt like you were the mirror, in the fow with your horse.
Ann S. Reilly, Ph.D. is a sport psychologist and author of
“A Sport Psychology Workbook for Riders,” available from Questions for Ms. Reilly’s column can be
addressed to
Developing the
Mirror Within You
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