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I’m often asked to help people feel good when cantering and to be confident in the knowledge that they can enjoy this beautiful pace. Cantering has to be one of the most popular issues I deal with and here, I’d like to consider what hypnosis can do to help.

Mention hypnosis in a group of riders and you will undoubtedly receive a variety of responses:

  • It’s wonderful, I’ve had it for weight loss/smoking/other challenge
  • It’s the one thing that got me riding/hacking/jumping/cantering/competing
  • I don’t want to give up my control to someone else
  • I don’t think I could relax
  • I don’t see how it could work
  • I don’t think I’d like to feel ‘out of it’
  • I don’t want it, I might get stuck in trance/be made to do something silly
  • Hypnosis is for gullible people!
  • I’d rather just have lots of riding lessons

Let’s take a look at what hypnosis is, what it isn’t and how it could get you cantering (or any other form of riding) with ease.

Hypnosis is just one way to reach the part of the mind that stores memories, habits and emotions – the so-called unconscious mind. There are similar routes into your unconscious mind, such as NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) or meditation.

Why hypnosis, who does it suit?

Hypnosis is a natural process. Everyone has actually been hypnotised! For example, have you ever been really engrossed in a good film? So much so, you feel like you know the characters and feel for them? That’s hypnosis.

Ever read a good book and found yourself transported away from your every day thoughts? That’s hypnosis.

What about driving, ever been driving on a familiar route and switched off mentally, then asked yourself, “How did I get here?” or, “Was that traffic light on green??!!” That’s hypnosis – it’s given the name driving hypnosis. You may have even forgotten to turn off a motorway and been listening so much to the radio or music that you’d forgotten where you were!

Hypnosis then is very natural and very familiar to our unconscious minds. It suits everyone who has an open mind and is willing to follow simple instructions given by a professional.

What is it?

It’s a means of giving the unconscious mind instructions, referred to as suggestions, that will help to overcome an obstacle or enhance performance. It’s a way of re-educating the mind and giving the mind a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

It involves relaxing your body, yet having an alert mind. You are aware of the room you are in, as well as any noises inside the building or outside.

Some people say they cannot relax enough, but a hypnotherapist will take you through easy steps to let go. However, in the unlikely event that you don’t relax, that’s fine, the hypnosis can still work.

You have total control at all times. You cannot give away your control to someone else, even if you wanted to! You can – if you want to, and at any moment – wake yourself up and stop the session. Just like you can get up if the doorbell rings when you’re watching a film or reading a book.

What is it not?

Hypnosis isn’t sleep, in fact, if you do go to sleep, your brainwaves are different (slower) than during hypnosis and the suggestions may not be embedded quite so deeply.

It’s also not being zonked out or made unaware of what’s going on. This idea has been generated with the popularity of stage shows using hypnosis. Remember, stage hypnotists will choose people who are game for a laugh and willing to play along, whether they are hypnotised or not!

Getting stuck in a hypnotic state is impossible! Many people believe you could stay hypnotised, but the hypnosis is always controlled by the client, so when you want to return to reality, you can!

It’s also not for gullible people! There is no link between intelligence and hypnosis!

How does it work for riders?

Each hypnotherapy session or recording begins with the initial relaxation of the body, then the mind. The hypnotherapist will then start to deepen the relaxation, enabling you to let go of everyday thoughts.

The suggestions are then added. When I do a hypnosis session or recording, I always send out a questionnaire beforehand. This allows me to personalise the hypnosis as much as possible and you should be able to give the hypnotherapist any of your own suggestions too:

  • Which horse are you riding, what’s their name? Are they quirky?
  • Where do you ride or want to ride? What’s it like?
  • What do you want to see or feel as you ride?
  • What stops you from cantering as you would like to?
  • How would cantering well feel?

There are many generic hypnosis recordings available, but I don’t do these. I tailor each hypnosis to each rider. In my opinion, riders are individual and so are horses, so they deserve something a bit more specific. This gives a sense of familiarity to the unconscious mind. The mind relaxes and is far, far more likely to accept the suggestions I make.

To illustrate this, I recently made a recording to help a rider to canter. But her anxiety wasn’t due to the speed of canter or the stride length, it wasn’t a fear of that first transitional stride of canter. There was no bad behaviour associated with cantering either! It was due to hearing her horse’s hooves thud as he moved round the indoor school. So we worked on how to turn down the sound of the thudding hooves. A more generic recording for canter might not include this.

What about cantering, specifically?

During the suggestions, we would address what it is about cantering that brings on the fear or anticipation. Is it worse thinking about it, than doing it?

Then we’ll work on it, as you would in a lesson, but in a very safe environment of your mind. With all the feelings of being safe and secure, you can focus on the canter, with everything else taken care of.

It works because your unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination, so after the hypnosis, you’re mind thinks:

  • You’ve already cantered you horse
  • You’ve already done it well

Imagine now, having listened to the hypnosis 5 times, your mind is beginning to install a new cantering habit, without you having sat in the saddle!

How often do I need hypnosis to see and feel a change?

Most hypnotherapists will give you a recording of your session or you may be able to simply buy a recording, without visiting them (hypnosis is perfect over Zoom or video messengers too).

How many times you listen is as individual as your mind. Some people listen once, some need 3-4 times a week for 3-4 weeks. The nice thing about hypnosis is that however often you listen, each time is like banking those suggestions, they will not have integrated into your mind as such, but they are there, so the effect is cumulative.

Will it help my cantering?

If you follow the instructions to relax, focus on what to do inside your head during the hypnosis, take action and have a go in real life, then consolidate by listening to your hypnosis until you no longer need it – yes!

Where can I find out more?

For more information about hypnotherapy for equestrians, see https://www.traceycolenlp.com/equestrian-hypnotherapy/

You may also like hypnotherapy for hacking > https://www.traceycolenlp.com/happily-hacking-with-hypnosis/

There are free hypnosis recordings on my website here > https://www.traceycolenlp.com/meditation-mindfulness-hypnosis/

Dr Tracey Cole
Horsemart Content Contributor
Published on 20-07-2020
Dr Tracey Cole is one of the UK’s leading mindset experts helping, supporting and training equestrians. She is passionate about working with riders to improve their mindset and mental strength and thus, enhance their performance and enjoyment. Tracey trains equestrians of all levels, as well as riding coaches, to become Empowered Equestrian™ Coaches. This is the world’s only accredited 4 certification training specifically designed for equestrians. Riders are trained in NLP (neurolinguistic programming), Time Line Therapy®, NLP Coaching and Hypnosis. She is also a keen equestrian, being the proud owner of Lottie, a chestnut warmblood.