Research Update: Psychological Skills Training with Equestrian Athletes – Horse Racing News

Psychological Skills Training (PST) is a proven training method used with athletes in a multitude of sports. Psychological skills training refers to the consistent practice of mental or psychological skills with the goal of improving performance, increasing pleasure, or achieving greater self-satisfaction. This study, conducted by Middle Tennessee State University, investigated the use of PST with equestrian athletes. An online survey was administered to equestrian coaches to determine if coaches were using specific skills in relation to PST.

Ninety-one percent of equestrian trainers surveyed used the PST with their riders. Confidence building and goal setting were used more frequently than other skills, followed by imagery, self-talk, and task-relevant routine. Relaxation was the least used. The type of skills used differed depending on the situation (e.g. training, competition). Confidence building was used more in training than during competition. Goal setting and imagery were used most during practices and pre-competition, compared to competition and post-competition.

Use of self-confidence, self-talk, relaxation, task-relevant routine, and goal setting were correlated with improved performance attributable to PST by increasing self-confidence and by reducing anxiety. When asked which PST skills promote a positive attitude, correlations were found between self-talk, relaxation, and task-relevant routine. Lack of training was identified as the biggest limiting factor to PST implementation, with 68% of coaches interested in more PST education and training.

These results suggest that equestrian trainers are actively seeking methods of rider improvement beyond the saddle. Further research should explore the best PST methods to use with equestrian athletes.

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