EQ Book Review – Brain Training for Riders

Book Review, Product Review

Hi everyone! Today BLD is reviewing Brain Training for Riders, by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo (published 2016). This is one of several books in the genre of equestrian sports psychology. Andrea works with the reader on addressing the mental blocks challenging their riding, especially fear and anxiety. The author is a well qualified guide to help the reader navigate these challenges. She has a Master’s Degree in Counseling, experience as a practicing psychotherapist, is a certified riding instructor, and competes in eventing through Advanced (among many other equestrian accomplishments).

The book helps the reader work through the following challenges:

  1. Handling uncomfortable emotions.
  2. Honing your mental game and focusing your riding time.
  3. Caring for emotional injuries.
  4. Producing a state of “Focused Calm” and tapping into skills to produce an outstanding ride.

Let’s jump into the review…

I bought this book back in December of 2016, shortly after it was published. I was having some rider confidence issues with my rather green horse and was hoping to pick and choose a few exercises to help me out. While I found the exercises useful, I also found the chapter focused on whether you are matched with the right horse perfectly on point. I hated to admit it, but my horse (Ray) and I were not a good fit and this book helped me feel ok about coming to this realization. Fast forward a few years. Now that I’m with a different horse (Ellie Mae) and in a different place in my riding, I picked up Brain Training for Riders again this summer and read it cover to cover.

My chatty brain just dumps info at me when I ride. It literally does not shut up. It has improved over the past few years, but there are still a lot of negative thoughts or near death what-if scenarios playing out in my imagination at any given time (lol it tends to exaggerate). Fortunately, my mare does not hear this chatter and just goes on per usual. I began this more in-depth reading of this book not so much to escape fear, but to turn this chatter and negative thoughts into a more productive dialogue.

Tips to Make the Most of this Book

Do not skip the introduction. Andrea lays out a compelling intro and fills you in on her own challenges. You get to know the author and she gives advice for making the most of this book. I love that she clearly tells the reader to use the exercises that work for them and disregard the rest if they’re not working. There is no push to buy into an entire program or way of thinking. I also found that the author is very relatable. Andrea shares her real experiences and sounds like a person you would enjoy spending time with at the barn. Reading this book felt like we were sitting together having a great in-depth conversation.

Plan extra time to do the activities. They are effective, but only if you take the time to do them. Have a pen and paper or notebook at hand to work through the exercises. This can be a little difficult if you’re reading Brain Training for Riders at the beach, pool, while traveling, etc. Maybe mark the pages and create a reminder in your phone to come back to it. It’s easy to read through the book with the intent to do the exercises later and then completely forget. This was the case when I first read parts of the book a few years back. I really got a lot more value this time around because I took the time to do most of the exercises. Also, some activities really only work if you do them while you are riding, especially the section on focused calm. It helps to either take the book to the barn or makes notes to take with you (screenshots on my phone work for me). Perhaps get your trainer involved if that makes sense for you.

Fear & Anxiety

If fear is driving your riding anxiety, this book is an excellent resource. It makes sense, given the author’s experience with patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are several exercises to address your fears (ex. what are you truly afraid of) and learn how to better manage these feelings. Andrea explores why your lizard brain is feeling these things and how to better work with your mind to lessen and reduce these fears and anxieties.

Positive & Negative Self Talk

My favorite part of the book is the section about positive versus negative self talk. This is me to a tee and an area that I’m trying to improve. I’m getting better at catching when negative thoughts creep in, but I never realized how just thinking about what you don’t want to do makes it that much harder to avoid and how critical it is to frame your thoughts in the positive. For example, coming into a jump it is so much easier to successfully look up when that is the message from your brain versus keeping your eyes/head up when you’re telling yourself “Don’t look down”. Your brain and body have to interpret the negative thought and reconstruct it as the positive. Lol -good luck! Andrea includes a number of exercises to help you identify this negativity and reframe it. Like I said, this section was by far my favorite and really eye opening.

Competitive Mindset & Equestrian Goals

Other areas of the book address improving your competitive mindset and accomplishing your riding goals. There are anecdotes and activities on accepting and embracing how it might feel a bit “sucky” at times (those pesky stomach butterflies), but that it is part of competing. Techniques are explored for acknowledging these feelings, accepting them, and ultimately changing your mindset to excel in this situation. As someone focused on equine journals and goal setting, I was happy to see an emphasis on journaling rides and setting achievable goals.

There is also a section at the end of the book geared towards trainers. Although I am not one I still found this section an interesting read, but I do not feel qualified to comment on this section.

Final Thoughts

This book is for you if you …

  • are struggling with anxiety or fear that has taken the enjoyment out of riding
  • tend to focus on the negative aspects of your ride
  • find yourself freezing up at shows
  • are losing the battle with competition nerves
  • are coming back from a scary horse experience that has you questioning whether you want to continue riding
  • are letting your worries about what other riders think impact your rides
  • are looking to try equestrian sports psychology

If even one of the exercises in this book helps you quiet your inner lizard brain and enjoy riding a little bit more, then it is easily worth the read and the cost of the book.

I always rate a book by how many times I have dog eared the pages for future reference.

Dog Ears: 16

Highly Recommend

Additional Details

Note: Bending Line Designs LLC and the BLD Tack Room are not affiliated with the author. The links provided in this blog post are not affiliate links. Bending Line Designs LLC and the BLD Tack Room do not receive any compensation from purchases made via these sites.

  • Title: Brain Training for Riders
  • Author: Andrea Monsarrat Waldo
  • Place: North Pomfret, Vermont
  • Publisher: Trafalgar Square Books
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2016
  • Edition: First, Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages
  • Price: List price $18.95, Available on Amazon for $15.55 and Amazon Kindle for $9.59
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57076-751-7

Links and Other Referenced Books

For more info, check out Andrea’s website: stresslessriding.com

A few other books that are referenced, which can be found on Amazon:

The New Toughness Training for Sports, by James E. Loehr

How Good Riders Get Good, by Denny Emerson

The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle

Tech Review: Equilab App

BLD, Product Review, Tech Review

Do you love all the new tech that has made its way into the horse world?  I am a sucker for any new riding tech, especially if it is easy to use, helpful, and non-intrusive.  I’m excited to share my experience using the Equilab app, which checks all of those boxes.

I first discovered Equilab in an article on Forbes. com (Click here to check it out for yourself) and knew it would be fun to try out during my rides on Ellie Mae.  For those not familiar with the app, it is an easy to use ride tracker for your phone.

Product details from my review:  I tried the free version on my iPhone.  You can upgrade to a paid account, which includes additional features – such as live sharing of your position with family members back home (be safe out there).  There are also smart watch apps that pair with the phone app.  I don’t have an Apple Watch or I would have tested this feature too.

Overall, it is a really fun and useful app to use and did I mention the ride tracking stats are included in the free version?  There might be some inaccuracies with the data (ex. speed seemed incorrect), especially when riding in an indoor arena, but I find it is still a good gauge and tool for my rides.

What Did I Love About EQUILAB?

Detailed stats all in one place

  • Record the basics, such as: length of your ride in minutes, total distance, average mph.
  • Detailed info for each gait.  I thought it was cool to see the break out of how much time we spent in each gait and the distance covered.  The app also listed the speed per gait. I found this was a bit slower than expected and might have been impacted because we were riding inside the indoor arena.
  • Do you find you spend too much time going to the right or favoring your horse’s better direction?  The app let me know how much time we spent turning in each direction, broken out by gait as well.
  • Keeps a record of all your rides.  You now have the dates and times of your rides in one handy place.  You can also manually enter separate ratings for how the rider and horse performed.   Tip! – the ride tracking features of this app pair perfectly with our Journals to then later document your thoughts about each ride.  You could even take screenshots from your phone (like I did below) and add them as images to your journal right in the PDF.
  • Cool graphs and charts.  I’ve included some pics from our test ride.

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 If you’re a chart and graph nerd (like me) this app is for you.

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Compatible with multiple horses

  • Equilab allows you to create profiles, with pictures, for multiple horses and records the stats for each separately.  You can view summaries for each horse, but it is also possible to review the rider summary and see the stats at the rider level for all horses ridden.
  • This is perfect for anyone exercising multiple horses!

Visualize path taken

  • The app records the path you ride and is color coded to indicate gait.
  • This was great outdoors and seemed very accurate, but the path was not as accurate inside.  I think this is a GPS issue and don’t fault the app.
  • Your riding path can be viewed either on a map or the satellite view.  We have yet to try Equilab on a true trail ride, and will post an update once I have a chance.  I think this would be really fun to see the trail route all laid out on the map.

In the screenshot below you can see how we walked up to the outdoor, saw it was too wet to ride there and turned around.

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In this pic, you can see how we were all haphazard in the indoor.

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We don’t really ride like this – at least not usually LOL – and the app had trouble with our position inside.

These pics display the same ride, on the road map version and then on the satellite view.  The path shown outside was spot-on accurate with our route.  Very impressed with the outdoor tracking capabilities.

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Horse energy expended

  • I don’t have a super accurate weight for Ellie, so I haven’t played around with this part as much.  It appears to calculate whether you may need to adjust your horses feed intake based on energy expenditure.  An interesting idea.

Rider calories burned

  • Ever curious how many calories you really burn while riding?  Enter a few basics and this app will let you know.

It’s fun to use

  • Overall, I found it a fun tool to work into your rides and doesn’t interfere or distract from riding.
  • Other fun features include adding a favorite pic to each ride, sharing your ride stats with a community (optional), ability to compare your stats with other riders in the same discipline with a spider web chart.

Room for Improvement

Difficulty tracking my path indoors

  • The shape of our ride was all over the place while we were in the indoor.  It even showed us starting out well out of the arena, which wasn’t the case.  It seemed to still track the turns and time in the various gaits, so I wouldn’t rule out using it in the indoor, but keep in mind there may be some issues with the data – including speed.

You Need to wear your phone

  • In colder weather, this doesn’t present a problem and I typically ride with my phone in my coat pocket.  As the weather warms up though, I found this was the largest deterrent to using Equilab.  I do not have a phone holder for my rides and I don’t usually wear breeches with a phone pocket.
  • The solution is easy – if you have an Apple Watch (or other compatible smart watch) there are Equilab watch apps that eliminate the need to wear your phone (at least that is my understanding since I didn’t get to test them). The fun of using this app has me actually considering whether to buy a smart watch. Or you can use a phone holder.

Difficult to turn on and off with my gloves on

  • I almost always ride in gloves and only a few of mine have phone compatible finger tips, so it takes a few tries to start and stop the app and sometimes I forget until after I’m back at the cross-ties.  Not a huge deal, but it does kind of skew the stats.

Have you tried the Equilab app?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

I would love to hear more users’ stories and whether anyone has tried the paid version.

FYI – Bending Line Designs LLC was not compensated in any way for this review.