They (and when I say “they”, I literally mean just about everyone) say that positive thinking is powerful. I admit, I’m a bit of a cynical thinker when it comes to that (maybe my positive thinking muscle is just weak?). After all, who’s to say positive thinking doesn’t easily cross into delusion and false securities? Maybe that’s the cynic in me.

But I have noticed something lately. Thinking – positive, negative, or neutral varieties – is a powerful thing. Let me explain.

One thing I do an awful lot of is overthinking – and that’s definitely not what I’m referring to here. What I’m talking about is being able to direct your thinking.

Let’s take course walking, for example’s sake. I most recently competed at Training level eventing – for any non-eventers, that’s about a 3’3 jump height, generally speaking. To my novice eye, those cross-country jumps looked huge on my first glance. The more I walked, the more I could feel my brain begin to swirl anxiously.

So, I changed tacks. I walked a few feet to my left, to follow the path to the next Preliminary-sized fence. The size difference was enough to make me think I’d stay at Training level forever, but it sure did make my course look a lot more doable. I started to do this every time I walked a cross-country course – walk a few fences of the next level up to put things in perspective. Not sure what you do once you get to the Advanced level, though…

The same can be said for how you view yourself as a rider. Self-image has a lot of bearing on our mental state. I deal a lot with poor posture when I ride, and it really shows up in those gosh-darn show photos. I also found myself cringing at that candid photo of me walking back to the barn with my jacket over my arm – hello, muffin top!

But then I watched a video of our cross-country round, and then of our show jump round (let’s be honest, our dressage test was worth missing). I didn’t see the show coat that fit just a little too tightly around my shoulders, or my aching back from trying to keep my chest open and shoulders back, or the unfortunate wedgie that had formed from wearing the wrong underwear (again). No, instead I saw a pair who’d worked hard to get where they were. Who weren’t going to turn any heads, but who got the job done safely and confidently. All it took was a bit of redirection with my own thoughts to be able to see that.

We’d had a silly run-by at a brush out of the water at that show – simple rider error. A few weeks later, we tackled that course again, and nailed that dang water jump. You’d better believe my shoulders were back that day – if nothing else, from sheer pride alone.

This month – and every month – Horse Junkies United and Heels Down Magazine are celebrating #RiderBodyLove. For more, click here.

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