The Longines Los Angeles Masters imprinted the facial expressions of some of the world’s top riders in my mind. Pairs of calm, connected, and focused eyes, juxtaposed by intense, twisted, emotion-ridden jaws, and blinking, expectant faces of the international cast of five star show jumpers continue to  flow through my mind’s eye. Confident, focused expressions  remain in the forefront. These mental images are a model for intended flow state, both internally and externally. Typically, this confident focus was accompanied by a seemingly deep, mutual respect between horse and rider, followed by an excellently executed round.

HorseStyle-1Jessica Springsteen: relaxed, focused, and calm as she looks for her next fence

I had the pleasure of talking to many competitors. It seemed the combination of confidence in their mount, and the right blend of sleep, food, and positive encounters with peers were all part of the recipe for success. There are so many factors that come into play when competing with a horse, no matter the level, but at a five star event, the conditions are quite unnatural so the energy between horse and rider become more of a bottom line for successful and safe navigation of the course.

Overall, riders reported that the attitude they carried through the tunnel from the warm-up ring to the arena dictated the nature of their rounds.

HorseStyle-2Georgina Bloomberg was expectant and observant as she waited to cross the ingate

Focusing on releasing that which didn’t serve (sticky jumps or missed cues from the warm-up ring, what-ifs about the course, and overall tension that is the natural result of adrenaline), relaxing the face, and connecting to their equine partner resulted in success in the ring. One rider reported that using my facial relaxation techniques changed everything for them in the ring!

I didn’t go to the LA Masters in search of new techniques or international connections, but I left with both! It just so happened that I was struck by the riders’ faces the moment I approached the warm-up ring and spent much of my time there noticing the connection between facial muscles and performance. Take some time to explore this phenomenon for yourself. If you’d like some instruction or to receive some of the exercises I devised on the fly to support the internationally ranked riders at the LA Masters, contact me for a strategy session. For now, just smile and your entire physiology will change along with your day!


-Dr. Carrie Wicks
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