I've been fortunate enough to have ridden and trained at some of the top dressage facilities in the world. As someone who prides himself on being a hard worker, I am always shocked at how many of the best riders take dedication, work ethic, and discipline to a whole new level. It's not surprising these riders are performing at their peak. Whether it was Hof Kasselmanns in Germany, or Shannon and Steffen Peters barn in California, there were a few universal habits I noticed in every top rider.
1) THEY HAVE A GROWTH MINDSET
My good friend Joseph Newcomb is a perfect example of this. If you haven't heard of him, he's the InHand Guy. He travels the world helping everyone from Olympic riders to those just dabbling in the art of dressage, to achieve a better relationship with their horse through the power of in-hand work. He does all this while running his own training and sales operation in San Diego. I love my conversations with Joseph because he's always discovering something new, experimenting, or playing with ideas he's picked up along his journey. He devours books on a vast range of topics and always finds a way to apply these principles to training. Being able to think outside of the box in an effort to better their own ability, is a trait I've noticed in all of the successful riders I know, even those at the very top of their game.
Every single one of these top riders sticks to a consistent routine. They always start their day at the same time with a specific morning ritual (ie eating breakfast at a certain time, or soaking in a hot tub before their day begins), whatever their routine was, it was consistent.
According to Daniel Carnett, founder of the Art Of Routine:
Having a routine enabled these riders to free their minds to focus on the task at hand; developing their horses.
3) SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE
Every top facility I have ever been to has a common element; a strong sense of community. When you are surrounded with others who understand your passions and goals, they have the ability to lift you up when you are down and to keep the momentum of your successes when you are on a roll.
I'm reminded of the old saying, you are the average of the 5 people you hang around most often. Choose wisely.
4) TAKE TIME FOR THEMSELVES
After riding his horses Steffen Peters would head to the cliffs along the San Diego shoreline to fly his remote-controlled gliders. Other riders from Kasselmanns head to the fields to unwind with a game of soccer. Whatever pursuit they did once they were done with their horses, it was all about them.
As Jessica Schwartz says, "If you aren’t happy, mentally, emotionally, physically, then how can you give it your all in business and for others? If you can’t care for yourself, how can you care for anyone else?"
5) THEY CELEBRATE OTHER'S SUCCESSES
This ties into habit #3, but I saw it again and again. Top riders encourage their community to succeed and revel in their successes and offer support if they fail. I have never seen a stronger example of this than the team at Arroyo Del Mar; where every time a rider from the barn goes down Centerline, all the trainers, riders, and clients gather at the in-gate to watch the ride. With this type of support system, each rider feels like they are part of something greater than themselves. When we feel this way, we push ourselves further than we would ever push ourselves alone.
These habits are universals truths at every top facility I have been to. If you can implement all 5 of these habits into your daily routine and practice, life will improve as a result, guaranteed.