Tag Archives: psychology

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The Power of Posture

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BIOSPHERIC PERFORMANCE-  Emma Westmacott

“There is little point strengthening your body with gym or fitness workouts if the structure and basis of your body is weak and out of alignment. It’s like building another storey on top of a house with bad foundations”, says Emma Westmacott of Biospheric Performance. And with a CV as impressive as Emma’s, you can take her word for it.

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Emma understands the demands of sports both on a professional and a personal level. She has been a professional sailor for 30 years. Her achievements include three around the world race challenges, the Volvo Ocean Race, the Whitbread around the world, and a nonstop around the world record attempt called the Jules Verne – in all of these she was a watch leader/person in charge on deck and in many she managed the team fitness. She began as a skipper of private yachts running their programs and during these around the world campaigns, set up Biospheric Performance as a personal fitness and biomechanics consultant.

 

Alongside the demands of elite level sport, Emma cemented her knowledge as a personal fitness coach by gaining professional qualifications as a Personal Trainer – enabling her to advise on fitness and nutrition, a Pilates Instructor, as well as a UKBCA Biomechanics Coach and Gravity Trainer (a similar device to the pilates reformer – fantastic for enabling symmetry and control in the core and limbs). In addition her passion in athlete performance led her to understand the motivation and drive that takes people to the next stage in their life and sport by qualifying as a Master Practitioner in ABNLP and Hypnotherapy, giving her the ideal tools to work on her clients positive mental wellbeing and psychology. Therefore drawing the mind and body connection together.

 

Her client list includes athletes, such as Dame Ellen McArthur and Olympians from various sports, but now predominantly riders and just normal people looking to improve their quality of life, performance and avoid as well as return from injury. Ideally Her approach starts from a structural basis, assessing posture, balance and weak areas. Then working out a tailor-made program to help people be their best self and avoid injuries. However, there is a bit more to Emma’s service than you might expect from your regular therapist, physio or biomechanics expert.

 

“There is a difference in what I do, in that I take an all-round approach to fitness. I usually start by lying someone on a massage bed to assess them- looking at the whole body – feet, knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck. With riders, I like to see them on a horse if possible, either in life or at least in video.”

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Emma then uses her wealth of experience and knowledge and a number of her many “tools of the trade”. With her extensive training in Biomechanics, she assesses alignment and symmetry, looking for potential areas of limitation and establishing if restrictions are bone/soft tissue or neurological issues. She uses both a passive (lying and standing still) and an active assessment of the person moving before mobilising and often manually stretching the body.

 

The process then involves designing a first “getting into a neutral position regime” followed by stabilizing and then strength orientated exercise program to make a lasting difference. She offers personal training as well as Pilates Instruction on a short or long-term basis.

 

“There are heaps of online courses and apps out there and yes you can make some changes if you follow them religiously, but you are never going to get life-changing result” Emma states. “Posture is not just about standing up straight, it is vital for better performance and preventing injury. If your body is aligned in every angle, you will be stronger and more powerful in whatever you do. I am trying to give people a tool box for life so that they exercise in a way that stabilises and strengthens the body for the long term.”

 

“ There are also many people and practitioners from all levels giving out exercises – but doing 20 “step ups” a day or 20 pilates “hip openers” is not going to combat the 20,000 steps that someone does poo picking and moving around with their horses in correctly (put another way 60 min classes or work outs will not combat the 16 hours people are awake moving incorrectly) – all exercise will be absorbed to change action to some extent but most people actually need the movement of everyday actions broken down and built back up ”

 

With her philosophy of looking at the whole athlete, Emma also provides sports psychology and consultation to help her clients get over mental hang-ups and works on focus and motivation, whatever their goals may be.

 

Based on the South Coast, Emma works from home as well as a centre in Winchester, but she also visits clients in their homes. She is available for group sessions and workshops as well as one-to-one. Ideal for riding clubs and Pony clubs.

 

Her prices are very competitive she gives discounts for block and group bookings

 

Read more about Emma on her Horse Scout profile

 

https://www.horsescout.com/professionals/emma-westmacott/profile/1405

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

International Eventing Forum Preview

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International Eventing Forum Preview


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This goes out to all the eventing enthusiasts amongst  our thousands of members, here’s a date for your diary. That is if it’s not etched in your diary already.

When: Monday 5th February

What: The 2018 edition of the International Eventing Forum

Where: Hartpury College, Equine Centre

Once again, Hartpury College will open its state of the art facilities to eventing enthusiasts from Grassroots to 4* level. This year promises an all-star line up of riders, trainers and performance experts. There will be four key speakers throughout the day and in some cases, demonstrations involving well known riders. After each of the four sessions, there will be a chance for the audience to ask questions.

Sandy Phillips kicks off proceedings at 10 am with a focus on eventing dressage and reveals what the judge is really looking for. As a member of the US Olympic dressage team, Sandy competed in three World Championships. When she moved to England and married Captain Mark Phillips, she rode for the British team at the Europeans and the World Championships. Now she flies around the world as an FEI 3* and 4* Judge for Eventing and Fei4* Judge for dressage.

Eric Smiley will be discussing how the sport has changed and might progress in the future. Eric who competed for the Irish team and at many 4*’s, is also one of the founders of the IEF. With an FBHS after his name, he is one of the most highly qualified trainers in the eventing circle.

After lunch and a chance to network and gossip with your fellow eventing anoraks, Performance Psychologist, Charlie Unwin will take to the stage. Charlie will be highlighting the importance of mind management and explaining how we can train our minds to improve our performance, even under the pressure of a competition environment. You can discover more about what Charlie does in our blog: Mind Games.

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Frederik Bergendorff rounds off the forum, with a talk on “Preparing for the Top”. Frederik is the new Swedish Event Team manager and coach who helped his team to a bronze medal at the 2017 Europeans in Poland.

Tickets are cheaper to buy in advance but there will be some reserved for on the door. Prices start at just £45 for the whole day.

http://www.internationaleventingforum.com/2018-theme/tickets/

Written By Ellie Kelly

Mind Games

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MIND GAMES

Success in Equestrian sport is rarely achieved without careful preparation. Although by the word “preparation” we mean something beyond gymnastic jumping exercises and perfecting your square halt. Mental preparation and controlling nerves, is so often the difference between winning and losing. You would not be alone in thinking “how do I replicate what I do at home at a competition?”

Charlie Unwin is a leading sports psychologist who has been helping a number of elite riders and Olympic athletes from a number of sports. As part of the World Class Programme, he also helps the British Eventing Team from Young Riders up to Seniors.

 

After Military training at Sandhurst, Charlie started his professional life in the Army. During this time he served in Iraq as a platoon Commander. Upon leaving the Army, he focused on his passion for sport and begun training to become an elite Modern Pentathlete. Within two years, he was selected to go to the World Championships for the British team and in 2007 he was crowned National Champion. With this background, it is fair to say that no one understands pressure and nerves better than Charlie. We are lucky enough to have him as one of our advocates and here he sheds some light on mind management for riders.

“I help people recreate their best under pressure” he states. “Most people come because of nerves or a loss of devotion. Nerves can manifest in so many different ways but ultimately the common problem is that they are not able to recreate what they do at home.”

 

You have many forms of psychology and help out there but Charlie’s approach is a scientific one.

“There are two important areas of the brain at play when it comes to performing at your best, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The emotional brain represents the “Driving Force” of our performance, whilst the rational represents our “Guiding Force”. The driving force is both good and bad. It is the reason we get out of bed. It gives us energy and motivation. Yet it also makes us aware of perceived risks and can create fear and frustration, sometimes getting out of control. The guiding force concerns our focus and capacity to think clearly about what really matters. It makes us prioritize and do what is really important. The driving force is significantly stronger than the guiding force, meaning that emotion trumps logic if we don’t learn to manage our mind. This typically requires planning and visualization skills designed to help riders think correctly despite feeling nervous.

An example is where highly motivated and aspirational people struggle to channel their motivation effectively. The danger here is being high energy but fragile control or confidence. Then I need to work on their focus to prepare and plan. I also see people who are consumed by fear, for whatever reason. They become scared to make decisions. Some people like tips and techniques to help them but the most important thing is that they understand why they are doing it.

 

In addition, I am also trying to help riders tune into their intuition, tapping into their vast reservoir of experience that cannot always be expressed consciously. When a rider is learning their trade, they go through a process of making corrections. If these are well thought out, e.g “why did that happen when I did this”. The enhanced connections in the brain allow them to develop better intuition. So if a young rider only cares about results and less about mastering their sport, they end up compromising the thinking required to train the brain. So often, after a lesson a rider will untack, load up and not do much reflection on why something went well or badly. In avoiding this, they have not allowed their brain to process everything they have just done. In order to make something become intuitive, a rider should write down their plans and objectives before and after sessions as well as how it went and what made the difference. They should have coaching conversations with instructors about how things went, not just in the saddle.

 

I encourage riders to do the thinking and planning up front, before even getting on. This is so that when you are in the saddle, you just focus on feel. Often experienced riders stop trusting their intuition because they start to over-analyse things whilst on board. When you are coming down to The Lake at Badminton, you can’t afford to be thinking about too much other than how you are going to approach the fence. If the horse deviates from the line, it should be your intuitive riding that corrects this as your subconscious will react faster than your conscious mind.

 

It is important for riders to empty their minds in order to deliver the best performance. When you are in the start box or about to enter the arena, if you are uncertain about your plan and focus, you are not going to be able to ride to your best. At a base level, daily meditation is the best way to clear your mind as it allows us to access the more unconscious parts of the mind responsible for intuition. The app Headspace is great for this.

 

Equestrians are perhaps the most guilty of “doing, doing, doing”. The price paid can be a lack of reflection and therefore undermines their ability to judge the intrinsic quality of their work and make changes for the better. When I was a pentathlete, I was striving to do five sports well and you often don’t stop and reflect. Then I realised I was substituting quality practice for quantity and changed my training plan. I halved the amount of technical training but was more diligent at planning it. The training I did was more intensive and focused and I meditated before each training session. My results shot up and I started achieving things I didn’t think were possible.

 

Top riders like Michael Jung seem to follow this strategy. He doesn’t do many competitions but each one has a focus and a goal. He is very diligent about planning and when he trains, it is with real intensity.

 

We are creatures of habit and some people find it scary to stop what they are doing and reflect on what it actually takes to improve.

 

If you found this interesting, Charlie Unwin offers an online programme of podcasts and webcasts on mind management and controlling nerves.

 

Subscribe at https://www.performancelegacy.com/equestrian or join Charlie Unwin Psychology Coach on Facebook.

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

Image taken from https://www.performancelegacy.com/about

How often do you think about your horses nose?

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Horse Scout Blogger was thinking about the way a horse wriggles his nose in your hand. It’s a funny feeling and somehow very friendly. We all know a nose is for breathing and for smelling but horses use their noses for other things too!

1.Exploration

Horses use their lips the way people use their hands—to touch, explore, and sense the world around them. Horses engage in mutual grooming, and he might be putting his nose by yours to invite you to scratch his nose or groom his face. A horse who puts his nose in your face may be trying to use his mouth to gently touch you, the way he might greet another horse.

2. Affection

Another reason horses put their noses in your face is to show affection. Horses show affection for one another by gently blowing into each other’s nostrils, and your horse may be trying to show affection for you as if you were another horse. Mares nuzzle their foals, and reaching out to touch your face may be how your horse says “I love you” in a similar way.

3. Sight

Horses have different fields of vision from humans, and they often move their heads simply so they can see better. A horse has binocular vision to the front but a blind spot directly in front of his nose. He may be moving his head closer to yours so he can get a better look at you if you’re in his blind spot.

4. Learned Behavior

Horses may also duck their noses to your face if they’ve learned that people bring them treats. In their eagerness to get treats, they may move quickly into your space. They may also have learned along the way that such behavior is rewarded with affectionate pets or scratches. Unless this behavior bothers you or turns into nipping, it’s usually fine. To get a horse to stop doing this, tap him on the chest to get him to back up.

Be cautious about strange horses putting their noses to your face and never encourage this behavior. Horses do have big teeth. I know a lady who got her nose bitten off when she used to feed her horse carrots from her mouth.