The equestrian performance coach, author and columnist
Sandie has been involved in nearly every aspect of equestrian life for three decades.
With experience in breeding, dressage and eventing she's a qualified coach and her passion is showjumping where she competed successfully up to 1.30m
"To put it simply it is my job to keep top riders at the top, and to enable aspiring riders to grow into that winning mind set".
"Change your mind and the rest will follow"
Having always worked with horses a show jumping accident that left her with a broken back changed the way she looked at things forever.
“I decided after the accident I had to give my body something back, so I trained in nutrition and to be a personal trainer and sports therapist.
When I started competing again I realised the physical aspect of things was fine, it was my mind that needed the work.
I trained in Sports psychology, hypnotherapy, NLP and coaching and went on to run my own academy and had a very successful business with two office bases and a full diary of high end clients providing an exclusive, confidential service to individuals who wanted to succeed.
Working with sports men and women was where I always wanted to be, but it wantuntil after being a Mind Coach for a first division football club that I made the decision to work only within the equestrian market”
Have you ever felt your performance lagging when others watch you compete? For many, it can be hard to avoid this type of anxiety.
One of my clients said recently:"I get really affected by what other people think of me when I am riding. It stops me going to shows and sometimes I don’t even want to ride in front of certain people at the yard."
Peer pressure is incredibly common amongst equestrians, whether it’s at Pony Club and you have seen other people ride the pony; or whether you are jumping and know the owners; perhaps you just think that you are not doing a good enough job on your horse; or its that 'old chestnut,' that we hear all the time, "my horse is just too good for me!"
But, we really know this is not true. In reality, it’s an excuse that we all like to hide behind!
Think- what would your horse rather do? Would your horse rather go in a trailer and go to a show or is your horse happy as long as his basic needs are being met?
By first putting it in context, you will begin to feel better about this issue. We invest so much in our horses emotionally, physically and financially that it has to be fun. We have to get something back out of it and if we are not, we have to ask ourselves the question why? Now the answer may be that you are trying to make yourself do something that you genuinely don’t want to do.
Honesty is a really REALLY important part of making us feel confident. Something I find works really well with clients, is to ask them to think about would they do it, if no one was watching? Remember, you are so much more than when you are on your pony! Write a list of things you are good at and all the things that you do in life, and get the balance back. Perhaps you are good at athletics, perhaps you are a good cook, a good Mum, brother, sister, rider… so many different things.
Here are my top tips for beating this type of anxiety:
1 - Start off at a level that’s less than where you want to be. If you feel that you are confident or comfortable doing something, then you are far less likely to feel nervous about it.
2. - Visualise yourself doing whatever it is you are doing or whatever you should be doing and practice visualising it every day. Imagine that there is an audience there so you get use to the feeling of riding under pressure or in other people’s presence.
3. Lastly and most importantly - whenever anyone is there, looking at you, get it into you head they are looking at you because they are interested in you. They are looking at you because they like what you are doing so show them, show them just how good you are!
If your last equestrian performance didn’t quite go to plan- all is not lost. We speak to performance coach Sandie Robertson and discover the simple tricks required to turn your last performance from waning to winning.
“Stress and negativity cultivate low self-esteem,” Sandie says, “I see these often in clients, and most can easily be avoided by learning to manage their expectations,” she says. We all know the equestrian world has so many variables; gaining and keeping rides and owners, soundness issues, time constraints, the demands of family, jobs and work which allows us the time to ride, our qualifications, our own financial limitations and so many more.
It can become very easy to put ourselves under an unreasonable amount of stress or pressure and become fixated on a negative and/or downward spiral. On a good day, when life, work and money are all working together, we’re happy and mentally balanced, and the idea of hurrying a horse through the grades before it is ready seems ludicrous. We think, who would want to comprise a horse we have managed so carefully for one single event?
The answer? Well, there are many…
• Have we created a scenario in our mind where by you would be competing at certain level at a certain time?
• Perhaps you weren’t chosen for that team the way you always dreamed you would be?
• Do you compare yourself to the performance of others?
• Do you want it so badly that you just tried too hard? Were you so stressed by the time it came to perform you actually rode like someone else entirely by the time the long awaited event arrived?
• Do you feel the weight of everyone’s else’s perceived expectations, that in your mind you managed to lose sight of what is good enough?
So your last performance didn’t go well, what can you do? Firstly, to create a really great equestrian performance, riders need to learn to manage their expectations. This DOESN’T mean accepting compromise- think of it more as seeing things for what they really are. To create a viable strategy to move forward, we need to be able to assess situations and review them, we need to take in to account what went well and what didn’t. The really important message, when things didn’t go your way, is, to remember you are not ‘hopeless,’ no, your horse doesn’t deserves better, and really you MUSTN’T give up! It simply wasn’t your day.
Review: Was your training adequate? Were you in the correct class? Where could you improve show day preparation? How was your warm-up? How did you and your horse ‘feel?’ Think back and review everything from your home-based training to your completed performance- and everything in-between. What could you improve? What needs to change? What will you do differently next time?
In the planning stages it’s really important to remove the emotion from our expectations, yet being human we naturally bring the stresses from other areas of our lives to the saddle, so if you are exhausted, stressed, rung out and haven’t ridden for a week – it’s not fair to be disappointed that the class didn’t go well.
Something to try:
A really good way to manage your expectations is to make a plan- but to visualise this is for another rider/ horse combination at the same level and the same desired goals and outcomes as you. By thinking through the steps required, working through the expectations rationally with no personal expectation or emotion- you will be pleasantly surprised at how balanced and practical you can be!
Remember you are not ‘hopeless,’ no, your horse doesn’t deserves
better, and really you musn't give up! It simply wasn’t your day.
"Change your mind... and the
rest will follow"
The Show Hubs team rider Megan Williams on Mohammed Yahyeah's Bordeaux
Being mentally stronger than their competitors, shaving vital seconds off the clock, creating an unbeatable team spirit or being more resilient when things don't go to plan.The role of the mind coach is vital it todays competitive world.
It's that time of year that some of us live for and for others it can't be over quickly enough! Even as I sit here in a stunning secluded Spanish villa nestled high in the mountains, typing on my keyboard in time to the waves lapping on the freshwater pool. I am pulled in many directions; speed up / slow down; do less / do more; You've done enough / keep practicing; try harder / don't try so hard! Sound familiar?
How do we find a way to keep on track without killing ourselves in the process of spinning 100 plates, or indeed downing tools completely? For those clients I have in the UAE who don't spend the summer in Europe and feel it's hard to stay motivated in the long hot quiet summer, I have come up with some cool tips that will keep you progressing through the summer and ready to dominate the leaderboard when competition season kicks in, allowing you to prepare for your best season yet!
Break it down. Use this time of year to really reflect and review last year's performances try and do this through practical not emotional glasses.
Note what was strong consistently in your performance and where you could also improve.
Then break those answers down again, for example, my canter needs to be better.
How? Does it need to be straighter, does it need to be bigger, does it lack impulsion or perhaps the horses collapse on one rein.
Then work out why that happens. Is it a schooling issue? Is it a mechanical issue? a soundness issue? strength or maturity or confidence issue?
When you have done that for each and everything that you have on your improvement list sits down with your trainer or your coach (or whoever, it is that you work with and trust) and work out a 6-week plan to improve each and every issue.
Don't rush this plan or cut corners. This way you will leap into the season feeling fresh and prepared. Which is the perfect mix for a confidence cocktail
IMAGE BY JAY HUANG PHOTOGRAPHY
"I can't do it, Yes I can,
No I can't"
How often do you hear that voice inside your head telling you all about the things that you can't do?
The things you should do better?
The people you should be like or the people you don't deserve to be like?
The one that tells you to quit! The one that says once a loser always a loser, the one that says don't climb to high because your fall from grace won't be to hard.
I have a question for you....
Who's voice is that you actually hear?
I find more commonly than not when I work with clients that the voice that condemns them is not their own.
Perhaps an old teacher or coach that told you you would never acheive your goals or a parent or sibling that you sought (or seek) approval from.
The crazy thing is that the comment that perhaps was made flippantly at some point in out life we have chosen to not only believe, but to absorb as part of who we are.
To integrate it as part of out very core belief system simply because on that day at that moment when we felt low or vunerable someone who we deemed to be superior in some way said it, so it must be true - RIGHT.?
WELL, I am here to blow that theory and belief right out of the water.
Every single person that you could compete against, train with or compare yourself with has those same beliefs, the same doubts and the same ability to sabotage themselves.
The thing that separates winners from losers is the ability to train your mind to question or re-frame those destructive patterns and instead replace them with a more current belief system that serves us in a constructive manner.
Something I find to be extremely effective when it comes to re-framing our belief systems is to create your own set of questions.
For example one of my clients felt at her most vulnerable when she felt unprepared.
In her case we developed a set of questions that were strong enough to silence the "you are not good enough to compete against them" voice in her head.
How many hours of training have you put in this week?
Can I train comfortably at this level at home?
Are my horses fit, sound and ready to compete at this level?
Can I think of a VALID reason not to do it?
If the answer to number 4 is no, then it's time to
6.FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY