These difficulties are constantly on your mind; in fact at this point they have created enough anxiety to fill a large wheelbarrow. Today you are feeling particularly off-kilter. You do a quick self-assessment and this is the worrisome report: “Heart in my throat and can’t seem to catch my breath. Legs are weak like spaghetti. Arms are tight and strangely lifeless. I’m imagining nothing but mistakes!”
You pause and then think the truly scary thought, “I love riding my horse, but right now I am wondering why I am even here.” Uh-oh! Houston, we have a problem. Riding is supposed to be fun. What happened?
There can be times when your mental and physical energy feels out of control, as if you’re a small boat being tossed around on a sea of adrenalin. Extra energy in your body can take strength away from places that need it and add too much of a charge to areas that need to be supple and relaxed. Understandably, this can be quite frustrating, but changing your perspective about what energy is and what it can do for you is the golden ticket to finding your way to shore.
To start adjusting and successfully utilizing mental and physical energy, you must do just that: Simply call it energy. You may have too much or you may have too little—either way you do yourself a disservice by vilifying the state you’re experiencing. It is just a state of being, and with practice and the proper techniques, you can learn to effectively control it. Then, instead of getting stuck judging how you feel with a negative label like “nervous,” “anxious,” “tired,” “flat,” “zoned-out”—as if that is a state you are trapped in and have no control over—you can spend your time getting yourself to the energy level you need. This will happen in one of two ways:
1. Let go of the energy you don’t need, then channel the rest productively. You can learn to release unneeded energy and effectively direct the rest to help you accomplish your goals. Remember this at the moment your energy is spiking; your body is on your team, trying to help. Sure, it may be a bit overzealous, but energy in its pure state represents your body’s readiness to get the job done. It’s a bit like the engineer’s assistant in an old steam train throwing too much coal on the fire. Ideally, the head engineer simply says, “Thanks for your help, but this is a bit more than we need. I am going to let off some steam here at the station, and we’ll use the rest to get us to Chicago.”
2. Generate energy for the focus and intensity you need to ride your best. When you are tired, unfocused, underwhelmed or generally feeling blah, you may need to boost your energy level to ride your best, and there are many strategies that can help you.
First, assess your current state and be clear about the energy level you’re going for—which is your Optimal Energy Zone—and then choose the most appropriate tools to utilize in that moment. Ideally (and with practice), it will feel like your energy is on tap, and anytime you need to, you can either make more or draw on your reserves.
Remind yourself that you do in fact (1) need your energy and (2) have control over it. These are important steps in becoming a consistent rider. You simply assess your energy level, choose the best tools to adjust it appropriately and away you go.