Monday, 12 January 2015

How NLP can improve your riding and help banish those competition nerves

Elizabeth Hough is a professional NLP Master Practitioner who runs her own coaching consultancy: Your Great Mind Coaching. Here, Elizabeth introduces NLP and gives us an insight into how it can be used to help improve your riding and confidence while competing. For more information about Your Great Mind and Elizabeth, please visit her website at: Elizabeth is a supporter of the Cathean Ltd Ian White Memorial Trophy and last year she very kindly donated a prize of an equestrian coaching session.

What is NLP?

N – Neuro: How we store and interpret information in our mind and nervous system.
L – Linguistic: How we use language (verbal and non-verbal) and the effect it has on us and other people.
P – Programming: How we develop and run the patterns and habits that are responsible for the behaviours we produce.

NLP is also fundamentally about the study of excellence. It’s about recognising where the differences lie between someone who is merely competent at what they do, and someone who excels. It’s a bit like having an ‘operating manual’ for the brain. It is the process behind how we think, feel and behave. It gives us an insight into ‘how’ someone produces the behaviors they do, and if that behavior is not working for them, we can use NLP to change that behavior. NLP is also fundamentally about the study of excellence. It’s about recognising where the differences lie between someone who is merely competent at what they do, and someone who excels. It’s a bit like having an ‘operating manual’ of the process of how we think, feel and behave. This provides us with insight into ‘how’ the player is producing the behaviours they do, and if that behaviour’s not working for them, we can use the manual to give us ways with which to change that behaviour.

In short, NLP is like an operating manual for the brain - it can be used to give the brain a new manual with a different set of instructions to achieve a specific goal.

At Your Great Mind we specialise in sports coaching, in particular for horse riders. As I have worked with horses in eventing yards and have competed, I understand the strong link between a rider’s mind and their performance. How we think and feel affects how we perform and act. In addition, our horses are perceptive and will pick up on our energy or thoughts, positive or negative. A great rider will leave personal issues on the ground e.g. a bad day at work, relationship issues, tiredness and mount with a neutral and relaxed mind. We are responsible for the training of our horses so if we send mixed and negative signals to them, by riding with our emotional baggage, they will respond as appropriate. Furthermore, they will remember that response in future sessions which can often result in riders having to take several steps backwards to undo the outcomes brought about by riding with a negative mind-set. NLP can help you to learning how to leave your emotional baggage on the ground and become a greater rider.
Unlike other therapies, NLP works with the unconscious mind not the logical conscious mind. All techniques are fully explained beforehand. The sessions are goal focused, concentrating specifically on what our clients want to achieve, but they are also relaxed and above all, fun!

Positive thoughts equal positive results.

Competition Nerves
Do you get great results at home but not at competitions? Most riders will experience nerves at competitions and that is normal. When you watch top riders, and sportspeople they refer to being ‘in the zone’. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to learn how to ride ‘in the zone’ at competitions and be in control of your emotions and nerves? Using NLP we can identify your personal triggers for nerves, and use a number of techniques, including anchoring and Time Line Therapy, to help you control your nerves and get into the zone.
Your Great Mind Case Study: Mrs X was an experienced rider, who had had time off eventing to raise a family. On her return to eventing,   she experienced high levels of self-doubt about her ability which affected her performance at competitions. Together, we worked on her self-belief and confidence by using anchors, which enabled her to associate experiences and feelings she had in other areas of her life where she felt confident and proud to riding at competitions. This was her ‘riding anchor’ and helped her to increase her self-confidence when competing. We also used hypnosis to re-build her self-confidence.

Nervous Riders
Photo courtesy of J Shearwood photography
We help nervous riders using NLP too. Loss of confidence doesn't always have to come from a crashing fall - the general ups and downs of life can take their toll on our confidence, energy levels, emotional state and motivation thus affecting our riding ability. When we start to address rider confidence, we often see a trickle effect into other areas of our client’s lives.
Your Great Mind Case Studies: Emma had experienced a bad fall from her horse and no longer wanted to ride. When we met she had sent her horse to be sold. We worked together to identify her short term and longer term goals and applied a number of techniques including Goal setting, Sub modalities, and Time Line Therapy.
As a consequence, Emma’s horse was moved from the sales yard to a livery yard and started to care for her again. We gave Emma a number of tasks to do as homework since the changes occur outside the therapy room too. These tasks included keeping a diary and grooming and lunging her horse. Emma also applied peripheral vision and an anchor she generated during one of her sessions. We set a timescale of two weeks to get her back in the saddle which she achieved! 

"I do believe that the sessions we had put me on the right path to thinking more positively. We have also made some changes and what a difference once your mind set is sorted! And I now believe that positivity breeds positivity.  Thank you for the start you gave me."

Chrissie, a rider who had lost her confidence so much she could no longer ride her horse. After applying a number of techniques including goal setting, anchoring, peripheral vision, fast phobia model, diaries and positive language enforcement, Chrissie is now enjoying her riding. Not only that, her confidence in other areas of her life has improved.