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Analysis Paralysis Part 2

goals psychology theory tips Feb 07, 2024
eventing horse jumping into water

So in the previous blog post (read here if you haven't), we talked about what analysis paralysis is, how it affects our riding, and why we should avoid it.

But now you're probably questioning: 
But Michael, *HOW* do I *AVOID* analysis paralysis?

Well like most things with horses, there is not really one simple, easy answer.

The majority of you minimizing or eliminating cases of analysis paralysis is going to come from a deep mental commitment to do so. You have to switch your mindset and commit to making decisions, and perhaps even more importantly: you have to become comfortable and accepting of the fact that sometimes they are going to be the "wrong decisions". 

I wrote this in Part 1, but it is worth repeating again:

I don't care if you make the wrong decision, I just want you to make *A* decision. Because ultimately, a "wrong decision" is actually a better decision than no decision at all. 

Over time, as you gain more experience in more situations, you will make "wrong decisions" less and less. But you have to struggle through the trenches to develop that feel and sense of what to do and when. You will not get to the other side of always making right decisions until you struggle through making wrong decisions sometimes. So get comfortable with making mistakes. A mistake isn't the end of the world, it's actually a learning opportunity.

Beyond that, putting yourself in situations where you have to make decisions is going to be the next step to getting better at avoiding analysis paralysis. That can be as simple as putting a groundpole or two out and committing to getting better distances and making decisions about the distance: staying the same, moving up, or collecting and adding. (By the way, yes, even for you dressage riders, groundpoles and cavalettis are superb training tools for you and your horse).

Sometimes, another good way is to put yourself in a situation where there is more of a consequence for not making a decision. This is a step up from the groundpoles, as groundpoles don't have too much of a consequence for not making a decision unless you mentally chastise yourself. Now, the trick here is to make a situation that gives you enough mental punishment for a lack of decision, without too negatively affecting your horse. This is largely going to depend on you and your horse's abilities and experience level.

If you are an accomplished Prelim level eventer (along with your horse), then setting a jump at Training height should (hopefully) provide you enough mental anguish when you don't make a decision and get your horse to a bad jump, yet still more than within you and your horse's capabilities to jump out of it safely. 

If you're disciplined enough with your mental game (and you're like me who very much chastises myself for any mistakes), then the groundpoles will work just fine because you will feel enough of a consequence that you place on yourself. But if you need more, like making them into jumps like the example above, then do that. And even for myself, I still will feel even more guilt and conviction in being better over a jump rather than a groundpole many times. 

These are great strategies when working on your own, but riding in a lesson will also be another great strategy. You can even tell your instructor that you want to work on your decision making and avoiding analysis paralysis. While, as an instructor, I may have certain things I feel like are most urgent to work on, I also love it when my students come to me with a certain thing they want to work on (as long as it's within the realm of reason. We aren't going to work on jumping 4' oxers when you struggle to jump over a crossrail, or work on half passes when you struggle to do a leg yield...)

Watch videos of the top riders in your discipline (and other disciplines too!). While top level dressage is extremely subtle and may not be as beneficial to watch, even dressage riders can benefit from watching top show jumpers or eventers, as it will show you a rider making a decision, and that's really what we are going for. You'll see Boyd Martin make a decision to move up to a fence on cross country. You'll see McLain Ward make a decision to cut a tight turn or to wait on the approach to a vertical. Watch it. Internalize it. And transfer it to your riding. Be more committed, be more decisive. You're not going to make progress in your riding by walking on eggshells and avoiding decisions. There is not a single successful rider/trainer that got to where they are by not making decisions.

So channel that in your own riding. If you want to be shy and indecisive, take up ping pong. But if you want to get better at riding, be decisive.

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