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:
- Handling uncomfortable emotions.
- Honing your mental game and focusing your riding time.
- Caring for emotional injuries.
- 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.
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
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: