[/pix_acc]-Part II: How will NLP help your horsemanship?

The importance of language

language_smWords focus thoughts, thoughts generate actions, and actions are what get results. I have always been a “nut” about words and language.

NLP really brought into focus the fact that choosing just the “right” word, or phrase, enables one to more accurately depict what is actually happening, in one moment, and accurately describe something that must happen, in the next moment. Using just the “right” word at the right time can motivate a student to ride differently than what he/she has in the past, saving time wasted on repetitive monotony.

Using just the “right” word at the right time can motivate a student to ride differently than what he/she has in the past, saving time wasted on repetitive monotony

Careful use of language can focus a student’s attention to learn the nuances that make a specific movement truly functional and useful. Subsequently, using NLP techniques to help the student visualize how these mechanics become important in the upper level movements in the future, can really anchor into the student the importance of learning correct movements and riding in the first place.

All of these different thoughts and uses of language cause a student to move through different mental and physical levels of learning. The outcome is for the student to gain a much more complete understanding of horsemanship.

Strategic thinking

A basic NLP presupposition is that excellence in any field leaves a “trail of good decisions.” strategy
Being able to identify, along the trail, the choice points in the decision making process that made the “difference that was the difference”, between average and great results is the trick to speed up the learning process on how one person does things better than another.

  • How does any great horseman, for example, know exactly when to change to a different exercise with his/her horse?
  • On what criteria does he/she decide to make tempo changes, for schooling purposes, within the same gait?
  • How does he/she know when to quit on a certain exercise?
  • Would your decisions be the same?
  • How do you know it’s time to quit a certain exercise?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear the decision-making strategies of your favorite famous equestrian? Having this mindset, and others that are central to NLP thinking, helps to focus your eye and better mentally process what you see, when watching others ride.


In order to improve any particular skill set, it is first necessary to “unlearn” something that doesn’t work very well before replacing it with something that works better. How is this done?

Once that mental change occurs, the physical motions will come easier because there will not be any internal conflict

This is accomplished by first, changing the way a person thinks about what is to be unlearned versus the replacement behavior. A person must agree that the change or learned replacement needs to happen. Once that mental change occurs, and exists as an agreement, the physical motions will come easier because there will not be any internal conflict. An example of internal conflict may be represented in internal dialogue (self talk) i.e., “This is what I have always done, why not do more of it, instead of doing it differently”? Or, in some situations there is no self-talk, just a reluctance to abandon the technique for “no particular reason.”

Learning occurs in four stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Conscious incompetence – You know you are not a very good rider.
  3. Conscious competence – You can ride well, but riding requires your total concentration. You make many errors because of no planning, or no awareness of where you are going.
  4. Unconscious competence – You ride well. So well, you are on autopilot most of the time.

The ability to visualize and subsequently go through visualization exercises is irreplaceable

As well, the human brain can only process 5 – 7 things at a time. When a rider is required to use both legs, both arms, and their seat in a separate manner, see where they are going in a dressage test, and plan, in advance, how to prepare their horse for the next movement, the tasks easily add up to more than 7. What this means is, the correct body posture for producing the movements must be learned and linked with instinctive half – halts, in order for the rider to control the quality of his ride “in the moment”, and plan and prepare his/her horse for the next movement.

Changing old habits requires the student to become consciously aware of the habit in order to consciously change it.

Fully understanding this process aids a riding instructor to have the flexibility to design a lesson plan for a specific student with specific weaknesses that will combine separate movements in order to make the movements intentionally, sequentially linked. Once learned, muscle memory helps with the accuracy of the new unconscious movement.

The power of visualization

Learning is experiential. By going through a movement with a horse, you have the opportunity to learn. visualize

The movement was reality based, it really happened. Specifically guided visualization can be so realistic that the brain can be “tricked” into the belief that the visualized mechanics of rider and horse, action and reaction, are “real”, in the sense that if duplicated, the response will happen.

For equestrians seeking to learn something new, or practice riding a test, the ability to visualize and subsequently go through visualization exercises involved with the new learning is irreplaceable. You can only ride your horse so many times in one day. You can visualize as long as you like.