Tim Horn, Certified Hypnotist
We all deal with issues in our lives that can be difficult to address. In this article, I address the specific issue of performance anxiety. Show nerves are no different from what happens before a test or when you go to an important meeting. This is just one example of how hypnosis can be utilized to improve the quality of your life. If you have any questions about whether hypnosis can help you, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You have worked a month for this moment. Being from Northern Virginia, you have had access to excellent instructors. You spent a few hundred dollars the past few months to have your horse’s muscles and alignment inspected by an equestrian chiropractor. That abscess the vet found has fully healed and your farrier has given him perfect feet. You spent two hours the previous night thoroughly cleaning and oiling your tack. Having your horse’s main braided was never your strength so you had someone do it for you.
During the warm-up, your instructor was happy with your preparation and you are off to the ring. Then it happens, the bell rings and your supple hands become lobster claws. That calm confidence you had when warming up disappears and the timing of your aids are a split second off. Your horse feels your tenseness and reacts while you overcorrect. Your fifteen meter circles become twenty meters and you feel like you are losing the contact with the horse. As you leave the ring, the judge kills you with the dreaded, “You have a beautiful horse there.” You have just experienced a severe case of show nerves. It may even have happened as you entered the show grounds, but it often happens to you.
Nerves are a natural occurrence for anyone involved in sports. With the intricacies of riding however, the effect of this anxiety can be magnified. You are partnering with a half-ton athlete that needs your guidance. Good preparation can certainly off-set an attack of show nerves, but they can still creep up on you. A recent thread on the Chronicle Forum suggested using drugs to combat the problem.
Drugs certainly can offer temporary relief from show nerves. Prescribed by a physician who is familiar with your entire medical history, the drugs can work without diminishment to your riding skills. However, the greater long-term benefit could be achieved through the use of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is not some mystical state. Most people have been hypnotized without knowing it. How many times have you driven home and all of the sudden realized you could not remember most of the trip? Your mind has bypassed the critical factor not unlike when your hypnotist guides you into the trance state. People in a trance find it relaxing and enjoyable.
On the unconscious level, we breathe, our hearts beat, we sweat, and thousands of other genetically triggered events occur. We have the conscious level which includes all the thought process that allows us to survive during the day. You organize your day, deal with everyday difficulties and make everyday decisions with your conscious rational mind. Rationally you realize you have fully prepared for your ride, but it is not the rational mind that causes your nerves.
Below the surface is the subconscious mind which breaks through when emotions like nerves are involved. Think of the subconscious mind as the programming for your rational mind. Previous events have caused you to feel the anxiety that created your show nerves. Hypnosis can be used to bypass the critical factor of the conscious mind helping you to deal with the cause.
An initial hypnotic session can be used to increase a rider’s focus during lessons and training. When a rider better incorporates their lessons into their training, they condition the horse and themselves to succeed in the show ring. Practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. This initial session can also include suggestions for working better and being more sensitive to your horse’s actions to improve the connection between horse and rider. Finally a second session a few days before the show can help the rider visualize success in the ring on that specific day.
The mind is an incredible thing; the body cannot tell the difference between physically completing a ride and imagining it. With perfected practice and the use of hypnosis, show nerves can be greatly, if not totally, relieved. Eventually a CD with the appropriate suggestions can replace private sessions. With these steps, you may not make it to the Olympics, but you will maximize your enjoyment of this wonderful activity.