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Fall into the Ride Mindset

In our sport, the bond between a rider and their horse is unlike any other. It’s a connection that goes beyond physical cues and gentle nudges. Catch riding, especially with the IEA, demands not just skill, but also a unique mindset. As youth equestrian riders of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, you’re not only tasked with mastering techniques, but also with immersing yourself mentally into each ride. 

Falling into the ride mindset means fully tuning into the present moment, feeling each subtle movement of your horse beneath you and allowing intuition to guide your actions. It’s about harmonizing your thoughts and emotions with the rhythm of your horse’s gait, forming a seamless bond of trust and understanding. This mindset can transform a good ride into a great one, propelling both rider and horse to new heights of achievement.

However, getting to this state of mental synergy is not always easy. It takes practice, patience, and a willingness to let go of external distractions. Here are a few tips to help you ‘fall into the ride mindset’:

  1. Breathe Deeply: Before mounting, take a few minutes of deep breaths. Feel the air fill your lungs and then release softly. This simple act can help to center you and eliminate various outside distractions.
  2. Visualize Success: Before each ride, competition, or practice, take a moment to visualize your intentions for this specific ride. Envision every jump, turn, stride and slide. This mental rehearsal not only boosts your confidence, but aligns your mind with your body and goals. Knowing ‘exactly’ what you want to accomplish increases your chances of achieving them. 
  3. Understand Mistakes: Every stumble, knocked rail, or imperfect transition is an opportunity to learn. Instead of dwelling on those direct errors, change your mindset to see and understand them as opportunities to learn and grow. Reflect on every aspect of them, adjust them, and do your best to remember how you can improve this for your next ride or competition. This creates a ‘growth mindset’ which is essential for improvement.
  4. Connect with Your Horse: Spend a few moments before each ride connecting with your horse. Whether it’s a gentle pat, a simple conversation, or simply standing together in silence, these moments foster a deeper bond and mutual trust.
  5. Stay Positive: A positive attitude can be the difference between an okay ride and a great one. Tense environments, like competitions, can be challenging, but they can also push you to perform your best. Stay positive with simple positive affirmations, visualizing success and intentionally focusing on your breathing. Remind yourself of past successes and how that made you feel.


Accept Feedback: Be the rider who is always looking for the smallest things that you can do to improve your riding. Not only does this help create a better growth mindset, but it also lets your trainer/coach know you are open and willing to be coached. Regularly consult with your coach or more experienced riders and teammates. Their insights can provide fresh perspectives, helping you refine your technique and mindset. There’s nothing a coach likes more than a rider that is ‘coachable’.

As IEA riders, you’re not just taking part in a sport; you’re upholding a tradition. Every time you saddle up, remember that the ride is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Don’t focus only on the ribbons and the placements, but the amount of progress you have made that gets you closer to the end goals. Let go of the extra pressure, embrace the moment, and truly ‘fall into the ride mindset’. The connection you nurture with your horse today will be the foundation of many triumphant rides in the future.