Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boyd Talks About Mental Toughness

For the second time this year students of eventing gathered at True Prospect Farm for the Phillip Dutton Eventing Camp. Boyd and Silva taught lessons throughout the week and at the camp's conclusion Boyd, along with Kerry Milliken, gave a talk about "mental toughness" in eventing, to send the campers away on a positive note.

A few excerpts:

"Cross-country is obviously the most nerve-wracking phase on an event. In any competition there are going to be nerves, it doesn't matter how many competitions you do; I ride and compete a lot and I still get nervous every time I ride cross-country.

"The question is, does this moment of terror ruin you or do you work with it and deal with it so that you can actually enjoy your ride?

"One of the first things you can do is visualization. One thing I've learned from Phillip is that from the moment you walk your course to the time you ride it is a long time. Make a time for thinking about it, and then move on - don't dwell on it and psych yourself out. Don't let the whole visualization aspect control you for two days.

"Another keyword is focus. To me that's a personal thing. You don't want to be so focused that you can't talk to your wife. Focus on just a couple of points, like when you're riding shoulder-in just think about correct bend and keeping the horse on three tracks."

He reminded riders to focus on their own issues and not to pay attention to external distractions. "If you're riding in the warm-up and David O'Connor does a big extended trot past you, don't try to do what he's doing or ride to impress him - just stick to your usual warm-up. Have a plan and stick to it. Don't let exterior factors influence you. You are not going to re-train your horse in the warm-up ring!"

Finally, Boyd commented, "Something you have to come to terms with is that a lot is out of your control. The weather, the footing, if the warm-up ring for dressage is next to the cross-country can get upset about it and lose your focus or you can think of it as a great test to see if you can handle it, like if it's raining you can see how your horse goes in the mud. Do the best with what you've got."

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