You probably already use voice cues to prepare your horse for transitions and gaits.
But do you use self-talk for yourself?
There are many reasons why self-talk can be extremely beneficial for both you and your horse. Even if you think you know what you're doing in your mind, saying it out loud is something else. Somehow, if you hear it (even if it is your own voice), your mind will zone in on what you're saying and your body will be better able to respond.
I'm not saying that you should go around the ring calling out to yourself ad nauseam! However, if you're stuck in a bind, learning something new, or simply wanting to clarify your thinking pattern through the movement of the horse, you might find self-talk to be very helpful.
This type of talking is not intended as a training tool for your horse, although it can surely become that too. It is more about training yourself.
3 Guidelines For Self-Talk
1. Speak in Words, Not Sentences
The idea is to use significant, meaningful words, terms, or even sounds that will help you get what you want from your body. It is infinitely easier to remember one word to mean one aid than it would be to try to say a whole sentence. By the time you've explained something out loud, your horse be on the next movement and you'll be consistently behind.
For example, if you need to remember to bring your outside leg back for the canter departure, think of a meaningful word that you can say quickly that will help you focus on that task. You could use a word like "leg" or "slide" or even "swish".
Use several words in a row to mean several aids, even if they are all combined into one movement.
Your self-talk for a canter transition might sound like this:
"tall" (stay upright)
"seat" (stay on your inside seatbone)
"swish" (windshield wiper outside leg)
"go" (move with the horse)
Whatever works for you.
2. Speak in Rhythm
This one is interesting. If you speak in rhythm with the horse, your movements will be timed to your horse as well. While you can probably speak at any time, try to get into your horse's groove. You'll notice that your aids may also be better timed as a result.
3. Say Every Word
If you have multiple aids in a row, you should say each word (which represents each aid) in order, in rhythm, in a row. Once you get pretty good at it, you might want to stop saying the words out loud but even as you think them, be sure to think each word in order. If you skip a word, you might find that idea drifts away in time and you forget about that part of the aid.
When To Use Self-Talk
Self-talk can be used for several purposes.
Get your whole body zoned in on one aid. Use self-talk especially to make sure you don't skip anything. Help your body stay on topic with the words you use.
Speed Up Or Slow Down The Aids
Sometimes, your timing might need to be adjusted to match your horse's tempo. The aids might need to be applied in the appropriate moment of the stride. You can slow down your aids by slowing down your words.
The opposite also holds true. Too slow in your aids? Speed up your self-talk and let you body move.
Self-talk is an excellent strategy for helping you deal with any jitters, lack of confidence, or tension. Rather than focusing on a negative situation, you can literally talk yourself out of a bind with selected words that are meaningful to you.
Have you ever been told that you need to breathe better while you ride? If you speak out words in the movement of the horse, you will literally be nudging your body to remember to breathe, without having to think about it. If you talk, you breathe.
If you breathe, you ride! 🙂
Let us know in the comments below how speaking your aids influences your rides.
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