How Self Image Affects Your Riding
by Daniel Stewart
Julia asks, “I receive lots of compliments on my riding but have a hard time believing them. I rode in one of your clinics recently and you talked about self-image. I think mine could use a make-over. Is there anything I can do to feel better about myself and my riding?”
Great question. As a rider you’re lucky because you get to do what you love – but you also have to love what you do. Improving your self-image is the first step in making that happen. Your self-image – who you believe you are, and what you believe you’re capable of – determines how you’ll behave and what you’ll try (or not). Every thought and action stems from the way you see yourself. If you see yourself as capable you’ll have a pretty good day, but if you see yourself as unworthy it might just turn into a long and frustrating one. Signs that your self-image could use a little boost include frequent self-criticism, jealousy and negative self-talk. Comparing yourself to others, difficulty giving and accepting compliments and feeling undeserving of praise are a few other common signs.
Improving your self-image begins with developing the belief that you’re capable of accomplishing great things. Creating, memorizing and repeating a positive self-image statement (a phrase focusing on your strengths) can improve your self-esteem because it reminds you what you’re capable of while steering your thoughts away from doubts and limitations. Building a self-image statement is a simple three-step process:
- Identify one or more of your strengths like, “I’m good at transitions and have a great position.”
- Identify what they can help you accomplish like, “They keep me balanced and help me score well.”
- Combine them together into a two-part statement like, “My great transitions and good position will keep me balanced and help me score well today.”
The best self-image statements are voiced in the present using words like now or today; start with words like I have, I am, or my (or better yet we have, we are, or our – remember your horse!); and include physical and mental strengths. Here is an example for schooling – My strong leg, supple hips and positive attitude will help me get great lead changes today. Create a positive self-image statement and you’ll be well on your way to improving your self-esteem.
Remember what Aristotle said: You are what you repeatedly think. Excellence is therefore not an act, but a habit.
Published August 2013 Issue
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.