HomeExpert AdviceArticleReady, steady, hack: Visualisation

Ready, steady, hack: Visualisation

Posted in Riding Schooling and Training Hacking

If the thought of hacking puts you in a panic, or fast rides seem beyond your capabilities, sports psychologist Debbie Percy can help

Hacking is as much a part of the horse and rider partnership as strawberries are at Wimbledon. Let’s be honest, we all love it – the freedom, the space, the sense of man and beast being one.

Hacking, there is nothing like it! Except, of course, when the thought of a hack leaves you trembling because your horse likes to demonstrate his near-perfect ability to turn about face and head for home faster than Red Rum.

Everyone can be confident on a hack. It’s a question of putting our minds to work. Remember the saying ‘there isn’t anything we can’t do, if we put our minds to it’? Well, confident hacking is just one of those things. Put your mind to it, and you and your horse can be confident and safe.



It works by creating a muscle memory, in your body, so your body knows how to be in a certain situation. When that wood pigeon does fly out in front of you, in your mind you have already experienced what to do, and so your body reacts instinctively and will do whatever you have trained it to do in your visualisation.

But what do you do if your horse tends to spook, you lose a stirrup and panic? How can visualisation help? The following routine helped a client to re-train herself to better handle this exact concern.

It’s all in your head

Sitting quietly, before she rode out she would see herself having a happy, enjoyable hack.

She then created the stirrup incident and saw herself doing the following…

  • The incident occurs
  • She looks up ahead and her eyes feel soft and relaxed
  • She sits up tall on both her seat bones
  • She hears herself saying calmly, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Relax’
  • She exhales
  • She thinks about the next downward transition
  • She sees her horse walk on quietly, her stirrup returns to her foot, and then she continues happily on her ride, smiling all the way!

This routine was eventually shortened to just key words:

Soft, Bones, Relax, Down, Smile!

This gave this nervous hacker some very memorable triggers to focus upon whenever she thought about hacking, whether she was at home, at work or even in the shower – and whilst hacking.

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