by Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My trainer just moved me up a level, and while it’s always been a dream, I don’t feel like I’m ready. How can I get over my apprehension and anxiety?
First and foremost, you must have faith in your trainer and know they would never put you in a compromising position, asking you to do something you’re not capable of.
However, it’s important to understand that growth and anxiety often walk hand in hand. At the center of change is the unknown. We fear the unknown because we don’t know what’s going to be presented, what will happen and how we’ll deal with it. Consequently, the best way to prepare for this growth is to address all of the possibilities that could present themselves in facing the move up to the next level.
Equestrian coach, author and sports psychologist Daniel Stewart uses GPS as the athletic acronym for Goal, Problem and Solution. It’s an approach that utilizes and combines two important sport psychology techniques: goal setting and problem solving. Just as the GPS in your car gets you to where you physically want to go, the GPS in your head guides you to where you want to go mentally with your riding.
Goal: The first piece of the equation is the mental goal you want to attain: in this case, moving to the next level.
Problem: The second component of the equation is the possible problem that might stand in the way of achieving your goal. We have to remember that goal attainment is not always a smooth process. We often have to address some bumps in the road in order to progress along the road and meet the goal — so much is learned through our mistakes.
Solution: The final piece of the equation is addressing the solution to the problem. It’s this final piece that serves as the driving force behind your growth. Moreover, it’s the piece that reinforces one’s confidence and determination, because you have the solution to the problems that were previously immobilizing you.
Let’s explore the issue of moving up and the fear you’ve brought to this situation.
You’ve ridden the higher fence heights at home in your lessons and have done quite well — which is the basis for your trainer wanting you to move you up a level. However, deep down, your mental stumbling block (problem) is the fear of making a mistake in front of other people at this level.
How can you address the solution without going to a show and actually riding in front of others?
Arrange for a group lesson with others who ride at the level you are moving up to. After doing some schooling fences, like at a horse show, run the lesson as a class at a show. This will allow you to ride in front of others at this height, make learning errors, develop more confidence in yourself and see that others also make mistakes — and learn from them — while being supportive of one another.
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal,
a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan,
a plan backed by action becomes reality.”— Greg Reid
Live your dream.