The Waiting Game

coverThe Waiting Game: Handling Down Time at Fall Shows

Appeared in The Plaid Horse, October 2015

By Tonya Johnston, MA ~ Mental Skills Coach

The fall season’s important classes, medal finals, indoor venues, and special shows often have unique schedules that may cause you to have more down time in your show day than normal. The added free time is not necessarily bad or good, what is potentially difficult is being thrown off of your regular routine when it matters most. This can lead to things like over-thinking, butterflies and (strangely enough) mental and physical fatigue. Here are some strategies for handling this added down time with composure and confidence, as well as great personal examples from some top riders and trainers.

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Using Video to Improve Your Ride

Equine ChronicleUsing Video to Improve Your Ride
by Kristen Spinning

Featured on EquineChronicle.com, June 2015

The human eye is slow and, on top of that, it often conveys only the data the brain thinks it wants to see. It can’t resolve the details of fast motion, like the motion of a horse and rider.

Have you ever seen a painting of a horse from the 18th century? Majestic galloping steeds were often depicted with both front and hind legs fully extended at the same time. People believed that was a correct gait, because that’s what they thought they saw, and all those paintings reinforced their false belief. It wasn’t until 1876 when Eadweard Muybridge captured the first moving shots of a racehorse that the gait debate was settled. That mere three seconds of motion picture changed how horse trainers and owners understood the sequence of a horse’s legs in motion.

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Sport Psychology for Riders: Benefits of the Small, Unrated Horse Show

ProequestSport Psychology for Riders: Benefits of the Small, Unrated Horse Show
Featured on ProEquest.com, July 2015

By Tonya Johnston, MA

Competing at a friendly, well run, practice horse show can be wonderful for so many reasons. I was recently reminded of these positives when I attended a lovely practice derby and horse show put on by the barn where I ride, Sonoma Valley Stables, in Petaluma, CA.

In any competitive sport it is easy to get caught up in winning and a “bigger is better” perspective. However, it is valuable to remember what small competitions can do for you. Usually people focus on the benefits of small shows for horses and riders who are young or learning—they get quality miles, the atmosphere is low key, entries are less expensive, etc., but in fact riders of varying backgrounds can use a practice horse show as a fun experience where real growth can occur.

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Preparing for a New Horse Show

Preparing for a New Horse Show

Preparing for a New Horse Show
The Plaid Horse, April 2015

By Tonya Johnston, MA

It doesn’t matter how long you have been riding and competing, arriving at a new horse show venue is always exciting! Recently I had the good fortune of traveling for the first time to the fantastic Pin Oak Charity Horse Show for one day, to ride in one class, in Katy, Texas. Since I help riders become mentally prepared to show, it was also a great opportunity to practice what I teach—specifically how to support yourself when you are heading into a completely new setting.

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Psychological Tips and Tools for Trying a New Horse

Psychological Tips and Tools for Trying a New Horse

by Tonya Johnston, MA

Featured article on ProEquest.com, October, 2014

How do you keep yourself calm, cool and collected while you are trying Mr. or Ms. Maybe-Right? Let’s face it, trying new horses can be a lot like going on a bunch of highly recommended blind dates. You hear about each new prospect with a hope that maybe this will be “the one”. When it comes time to ride the horse you want it to go well, try to put your best foot forward, have heard great things about him or her, and you often meet in an unfamiliar location. It’s understandable that you might have some butterflies, feel some self-induced pressure to be “good”, or be distracted by a lot of choices and opinions. (more…)

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Chronicle of the Horse, December 2013

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Chronicle of the Horse, December 2013

By Molly Sorge

Mind over matter, as the saying goes. It’s no secret that mental strategies play a key role in performing at one’s best. But it’s a lot harder to tell yourself, “Be positive,” and affect a change than it is to say to yourself, “Push your heels down,” and do it.

The author of Inside Your Ride, Tonya Johnston, is a mental skills coach who also competes in the adult equitation at AA-rated shows. She’s worked with riders of various disciplines, and her advice can be applied to any type of riding. (more…)

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Equine Journal, November 2013

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Equine Journal, November 2013

Any successful equestrian will tell you that riding well is just as much of a mental exercise (if not more) than it is a physical one. This book approaches that aspect of riding, focusing on mental preparation, and using this insight to improve your skills.

The author gives many strategies for increasing a rider’s confidence, as we as improving his or her focus. The book takes a look at how a rider’s attitude can influence the outcome of each ride—both positively and negatively. The final chapter focuses on coming back from a setback, such as a fall or injury.

Bottom Line: It’s not enough to just be a passenger on a horse; learn how to get your head in the game as well. Rating: Five blue ribbons

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Practical Horseman, August 2013

Book review for Inside Your Ride, published in Practical Horseman, August 2013

By Traci Donatelli

It’s common for riders to spend time in the gym building physical fitness for greater proficiency in the saddle. Author Tonya Johnston, a lifelong hunter/jumper rider who is a mental skills coach, outlines a variety of sport psychology techniques designed to help equestrians build their mental facilities for the next horseback outing, whether it’s a hack through the woods or a competition on the A-circuit. (more…)

Channel Your Energy Productively

Channel Your Energy Productively

by Tonya Johnston, MA
Appeared in Practical Horseman, July 2012

There you are on your horse, waiting for your lesson to start. Things have been very challenging recently, and to say you’ve been having a rough time is an understatement.

These difficulties are constantly on your mind; in fact at this point they have created enough anxiety to fill a large wheelbarrow. Today you are feeling particularly off-kilter. You do a quick self-assessment and this is the worrisome report, “Heart in my throat and can’t seem to catch my breath. Legs are weak like spaghetti; arms are tight and strangely lifeless. I’m continuing to imagine nothing but mistakes!”

You pause, and then think the truly scary thought, “I love riding my horse, but right now I am wondering why I am even here.” Uh-oh! Houston, we have a problem. Riding is supposed to be fun! What happened?

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