Sports psychology and show jumping go together well and this is especially the case with an office in the Palm Beaches not far from a Wellington horse show. Dr. Murray has had the privilege of working with many equestrians, and this includes some of the best polo players in the world too. There are so many exciting equestrian activities in Wellington, and with a lot of awards and money on the line in the show ring, these top athletes need to be on top of their game 100% mentally.
Issues Frequently Seen In Show Jumping: Fear after a fall, Confidence in the show ring, Managing social situations and politics more effectively, and Better routines to prepare for all the jumps using guided imagery and relaxation.
Whether your show jumping is in the earliest stages of development or you are perhaps excited about your first Olympic or professional appearance, there is a wealth of exciting information and inspiration available to you from the world of mental training and sport psychology. If you are not keeping up-to-date and benefiting from the fascinating developments in this field you are depriving yourself of key tools that would raise your expertise and enjoyment to the next level.
That is where a good sports psychologist comes in to both inform and inspire the horse jumper. Dr. John F Murray has written articles over at a great website called WorldOfShowJumping.com and his expertise has also appeared in a variety of other columns for the equestrian over the years.
The horse jumper is wise to seek out sports psychology for both performance enhancement strategies and counseling for a variety of issues when they appear. Since not all jumpers have access to a qualified sports psychologist in their local area, they often begin their mental training while competing or training in Wellington. It’s about a 20 minute drive to Dr. Murray’s office, but a lot of the follow-up work can be done on the phone after the jumper leaves Florida.
There is still a long way to go before most show jumpers use sports psychologists on a regular basis, but mental needs are always present and big in this sport of refined grace and skill that also involves the need to tune in properly to the horse. The horse also has enormous impact on the total performance in the ring. The mental skills gap needs to be corrected if the athlete has never had it before. It is unquestionable that the complete show jumper of the future will require all the benefits sport psychology has to offer to stay on top. This is true for other sports too as awareness is growing.
Below I briefly outline several areas involved and services provided by the sport psychologist for this group of athletes. Let’s see a few domains where sport psychology plays a vital role in this sport and will likely play an even greater role in the future:
(1) Professional jumping and training
(2) National and Olympic team training
(3) College and university team training
(4) Youth development
(5) Families of equestrians
(6) Jumpers coping with injuries
(7) Recreational programs
Here are some typical services provided by the sport psychologist:
(1) Imagery training
(2) Arousal management/attentional focus
(3) Substance abuse management
(4) Eating disorders/weight management
(5) Relaxation training
(6) Motivational strategies
(7) Competitive pressure management
(8) Programs to cope with retirement
People are unique and present with their own unique needs. The experienced sports psychologist, in my view, also needs to an experienced generalist able to handle difficult issues or rare conditions that might go far beyond performance. For example, depressed or anxious people who ride or jump need to have their condition treated if they want to feel better and perform better. There are many politics in the equestrian world, so talking that out and dealing with the pressure is an example of a more general need that goes beyond the art of proper physical technique or even confidence. So while most jumpers who seek sports psychology services are healthy and just seeking to be super healthy and more successful, it helps to be able to access clinical services when needed.
In closing, sport psychology has much to offer show jumpers at all levels and ages. If you are looking for a competitive edge, or trying to help your jumpers achieve at their maximum level, turn to the science of sports psychology.