Do You Ride in the Moment?
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
Throughout my career as a trainer, competitor and coach, I have constantly resourced as much information as possible pertaining to horses, the way they think, how to train them. and their care and well-being. When I started seriously competing, I ran across Jane Savoie's NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programing) DVDs and books such as Riding in the Mind's Eye, and from this beginning back in the 80s I realized that as an equestrian, we need to have a coach. Since those days, there have been many books and DVDs that share the message of living in the moment and influencing your life, and that of those around you both human an animal in a positive manner. Hassler's book, Search For Your Image, comes to mind as a workbook I used back in the early days. The recent publication, A Compassionate Equestrian by Allen Schoen is a wonderful read if you want to learn to bring a little (or a lot) of zen into your life.
A trainer will train both horse and rider, and while an instructor will train you as a rider, a coach is often something experienced trainers/instructors will become with maturity. Hopefully after years of experience, as a competitor with a proven track record. Between creating 'trigger' words for individual riders, and promoting a sense of self motivation, well-being and overall integrity are some thing I strive to develop in any person I teach. As a coach. I don't generally ride thier horse, instead I teach them how to improve their own talents and relationship with their horse to help them overcome fears or mental blocks to their success. Confidence is key to being a happy rider.
It is heartening to see that the development of being 'in the moment' is progressing rapidly, and like athletes in other sports, equestrians are realizing that they too can benefit from the support of a good coach.
Lisa Eklund, originally from Stamford, NY is such a coach. With masses of experience in the hunter/jumper world and teaching IHSA students at Morrisville State College, NY for 15 years, Lisa has reached a new part of her life and is taking her wealth of knowledge and tutoring to the next level, with her new business The Mindful Equestrian.
"Morrisville IHSA team is very competitive in one of the toughest regions and zones in the country and has had many successes at the regional, zone and national levels.
In my years of teaching college students I have shared my life’s journey and studies in order to help them grow as human beings. I try to connect their struggles on and off the horses to life lessons. They have their own struggles, and look for advice and direction, and I enjoy helping them as I can. I am also involved in helping them search for their authentic career paths. Through the years this part of my job has become my authentic path and is what I truly enjoy. So my search has lead me to my get my certification and training as a career and life coach while enhancing my skills as a performance coach and trainer. That is what pushed me to start the business. I will be retiring soon and this is what I want the next chapter of my life to be about," said Lisa.
In Lisa's early career as a professional, she worked as an assistant trainer with Gary Duffy at Asbury Hill farm and then later at Little Brook Farm.
"Gary Duffy has probably had the most influence on my training technique and knowledge over the past 35 years. I began to work with him after I graduated from college at Asbury Hill Farm in Ithaca, NY where I became assistant trainer. I worked there for 7 years. We showed locally and nationally and had great successes. We were both young and I learned from Gary much about training riders and horses at level or ability to be the most successful they could be. At the start, our clients did not have great resources to buy expensive horses so we learned to create our success through good training and a good eye for both talented horses and riders. He helped me develop that talent which I use all of the time now training at the college level. Then I worked for him again in the 90s for a couple of years when he and his wife Donna were starting up Little Brook Farms. We have remained friends since then and he has very helpful in many ways in supporting me in my career. I will say though that life and the search for self-awareness has been my biggest teacher. I have been a searcher much of my life. In the past 10 years, I have been studying many different philosophies on living your best life. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, has become a great source of wisdom and life lessons for me. My best learning has come from being open to the lessons that are put in front of me. That mindset is what I try and instill in my students."
In between the times Lisa worked with Gary Duffy, she went back to school.
"I had my BA in Literature and returned to school and received my MS in Biology. During my school years and after I freelanced as a trainer as well. In all of those years I trained from the local through the national level. I had success at national shows such as the Pennsylvania National, Devon and at Pony Finals in the 1980s.
In my years as a college professor and IHSA coach, I have helped grow the Morrisville Hunt seat program and have trained graduates who are successful in many areas of the horse industry," said Lisa. In addition Lisa is currently completing her certification from The International Coach Academy, which will be completed in September 2015.
Like many of us, Lisa started out as a horse crazy child.
"I started out begging for a horse as a little girl and I finally got a pony who we kept at home and who I rode Western. She used to continually go back to the barn when I rode her and I would cry and get frustrated. So I began riding lesson with a local teenager. There I rode Western and English. Over the years I had many horses at home and had a tack shop and riding lesson business as a teenager and college student. I did not realize then how little I actually knew but the opportunity to make mistakes on my own and learn from them was a real gift. It is something young people need to be able to do more today, stated Lisa," adding that she could not have developed her horse career without the financial and emotional support of both her parents, who have sadly passed away.
"My thanks go to them. They supported me in every way."
Like most businesses, The Mindful Equestrian is a business that started organically and through the years. But just what is building riding and life skills all about, and how can Lisa's program help you?
The mission at The Mindful Equestrian is to offer riders the opportunity to enhance their performance and well-being. The ultimate vision is to help make this a better world by making positive shifts in the lives of the clients through Lisa's coaching, in both their riding and lives.
The focus and core values of The Mindful Equestrian are:
♣ Living a mindful life by not staying stuck on events of the past or creating imagined outcomes in the future
♣ Inspiring clients to practice mindful riding and mindful living
♣ Following an ethical path of honesty and integrity
♣ Coaching with a positive, optimistic and open-mind
♣ Combining passion with perseverance = GRIT
♣ Excellence in teaching and coaching
♣ Ensuring accountability in coach and client
♣ Finding balance in work and play
♣ Understanding mistakes and failures are the stepping stones to success
So if you are aware of the importance of goal setting, letting go of past mistakes but learning from them, and creating a real time attainable program for our riding, how do you put these plans into action? Lisa's coaching program offers several options for riders to choose from:-
• Riding lessons: Private and group at client's facility
• Clinics for all types of hunter and jumper riding
• Clinics for IEA teams and riders
• Private 20 or 60 minute phone or Skype coaching sessions to help with mental blocks in riding
• Seminars on mindful riding and strategies to improve mental focus
When asked what the biggest issue Lisa sees facing riders, Lisa explained,
"Not being mindful is one of the biggest problems I see that faces a rider. An awareness of self and of the horse is important in order for them to develop a feel and take ownership of problems in their riding. Often when this feel starts to occur, riders often get angry with themselves for slipping back into old patterns. They get so caught up in worrying about this that they lose sight of their new sense of awareness and that they have found a good habit. They don't reward themselves for that great accomplishment. If they let go of this anger and frustration they will eventually, with much practice, slip less and less back into those old ways while developing new, good habits. It takes dedication and perseverance to do so. It is not a quick fix. This is true in riding and any part of our lives. Becoming mindful and aware are the first and most important steps that need to happen before a change can occur. Then it is a matter of practice. One thing we always have to remember though is to forgive ourselves for making mistakes so that we don't stay stuck in them. We are human after all and this life is a constant journey of trial and error and practice."
What can you expect from a coaching session with "The Mindful Equestrian?"
"When working with a new student, I look at their overall riding foundation and position and look for one or two things that affect the whole picture. Then that is what I work on. It is too hard for the mind and body to focusing fixing more than one thing at a time. I also look for the mental and emotional blocks they have that get in the way of their riding success and improvement."
Lisa finds her work rewarding and enjoys helping riders of all levels:
"The most rewarding examples of riders I have helped are graduates who go out into the world and whether they continue in the horse business or not they remember the life lessons incorporated in their riding lessons. They often contact me to let me know these lessons have added to their overall success. Good riding requires more than passion. It takes perseverance and grit. The most successful riders are not afraid of making mistakes as they know that is how they get better and grow. Successful riders have goals and make a plan to achieve them. When their path towards their goals is blocked, they find ways around the road block and create a new path. New goals are always being set. There is no end to their journey as they know there is no such thing as perfection. Perfection implies an end to learning and growing. Successful riders see learning as limitless. So my advice to anyone wanting to have success in any level of riding is to have what author Carol Dwek calls, a growth mindset. Keep looking at your failures as opportunities to grow and understand that with hard work and dedication, you will have success. Your passion should be for learning about riding not for winning.”
Lisa is delighted to have been invited to do a seminar at the IEA Nationals next year in Lexington. You can also see her upcoming events posted on Catskill Horse events page, including her next clinic on July 18, 2015 at City View Equestrian, inBloomfield, NY.
So if you want to enjoy some true success with your riding, visit The Mindful Equestrian website to catch up with Lisa and to learn lots of great tips from her engaging articles.