Research Update: Training Psychological Skills With Equestrians – Horse Racing News

Psychological Competence Training (PST) is a proven coaching method used with athletes in a variety of sports. Psychological competence training refers to the consistent practice of mental or emotional abilities for the purpose of increasing performance, increasing joy or achieving greater self-satisfaction. This study, conducted by Middle Tennessee State University, examined the use of PST among equestrian athletes. An online survey was conducted among equestrian trainers to determine whether trainers were using specific skills related to PST.

Ninety-one percent of the equestrian trainers surveyed used PST on their riders. Confidence building and goal setting were used more frequently than other skills, followed by imagination, self-talk, and task-related routine. Relaxation was the least used. The type of skills used varied depending on the situation (e.g. training, competition). Confidence building was used more in practice than in competition. Goal setting and imagery were used most frequently during training and before competition compared to during competition and after competition.

The use of confidence building, self-talk, relaxation, task-related routine, and goal setting correlated with PST-attributable improvement in performance through increases in self-confidence and reductions in anxiety. When asked which PST skills promote a positive attitude, correlations were found between self-talk, relaxation, and task-related routine. Lack of training was identified as the top limiting factor to PST implementation, with 68 percent of trainers interested in more PST training and development.

These results suggest that horseback riding trainers are actively looking for ways to improve the rider beyond the saddle. Further research should examine the best PST methods for equestrians.

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