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Sports Automatic Action; the essence of our skills

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

Why do we need to train your mind?

Stop for a second and think about what happens in the show pen. Everything goes fast, you have no time to stop and think about what to do. When you are performing at your peak, you are doing exactly what you have to do at every moment - without thinking about it or making conscious decisions. In other words, you are acting almost automatically - from maneuver to maneuver.

Human beings act automatically in everyday life – not just in riding.

Have you ever had the experience of driving your car, and suddenly realizing that for the past few minutes you were not aware of driving at all? You made all the right turns and stops, maneuvering your way, sometimes at high speed and through heavy traffic – without even being aware of what you were doing! Instead, you were thinking about your next competition, your business, your upcoming vacation, or just about anything except driving.

Everyone who drives had that experience – and quite frequently. How is it possible?

The answer is, that at some point, driving becomes automatic. You know where you want to go, and your senses are taking in information about what is going on around you. Your mind processes this information, and tells your body what to do - like moving the steering wheel or putting the right amount of pressure on the accelerator or the break.

Your automatic actions keep the car moving in the right direction, at a certain speed, and avoiding obstacles and dangers. Usually, this kind of automatic action is quite useful. It enables us to function effectively in routine situations, while conserving mental energy. It enables us to devote our conscious thinking to more complex problems.

There is another name for automatic action: skill.

A skill is something that you know how to do so well, that you do not have to think about it. Automatic action, or skill, is the essence of sports. When you are performing at your peak, you are totally absorbed in what you are doing. Your senses are sharp and taking in information, your mind, processes this information instantly, and triggers the right bodily response. You do not have to tell yourself what to do, or think about what comes next. In fact, if you think too much, you are likely to interfere with your performance.

These moments of peak performance are also called “flow” or “being in the zone.” They are moments of energized focus, total immersion, and enjoyment. They - are what athletes live for.

The ways actions become automatic - or skilled - is through practice. Practice, practice and practice some more. People may not realize it, but driving is highly skilled behavior because they repeat it again and again.

At equestrian sports; Once we enter the show-pen our skills will be tested. We are asked to perform a maneuver after maneuver after maneuver until we are done. The ability to reach Peak Performance, starts with us mastering the execution of our skills. Showing the judge our strength and overcoming our weaknesses.

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