The Pre-Performance Advantage

How do riders prepare for the mental challenges of eventing? We aim to find out. Photo by Abby Powell.

When Tiger Woods steps up to the tee, he stands behind the ball holding his club, visualizes where he wants the shot to land, BEFORE taking the shot. Once he is in position, he looks at the ball and the target one more time, and executes the shot as he saw it in his head.

When Michael Jordan shot a free throw, he would take a shoulder width stance, spin the ball in his hands, bounce the ball three times, and then spin the ball once again while fixating the rim before he finally threw the ball.

These elite athletes, like many others, are engaging in a pre-performance routine, or a set of predetermined thoughts and actions that are used before performance challenges. When used effectively, pre-performance routines have been proven to give athletes a competitive advantage.

So what does an effective pre-performance routine look like to an equestrian athlete?

Well, as with all things mental, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Pre-performance routines should help prime us to be physically and mentally ready for the challenge ahead of us. As eventers, I think we can all recognize that the mental activation required of dressage is not the same as that of cross country, but I’m curious as to how athletes change their preparation approach through each phase of competition.

Next week, I will have the opportunity to be amongst some of the most elite riders at one of the most high pressure competitions of the year — the Maryland 5 Star — and I will be interviewing athletes on what they think are the most important elements of their mental preparation that helps them get “in the zone” across the three phases of competition.

Be sure to tune in to updates on Eventing Nation, and let me know what questions you have about mental readiness and performance routines — you can email me your question or post it in the comments.

Psst! Tyler is holding a silent auction of some exciting equestrian items to raise money for cancer research and support. Please be sure to check it out and get your bids in before November 1st here.