Dealing with Distractions
by Daniel Stewart
Losing focus is one of the most common mental challenges you can face. The average time an untrained mind can remain focused on a specific task is as little as 5 seconds so learning to improve your concentration is well worth the effort (especially considering a jump course takes 75 seconds, a dressage test 4 minutes). In order to do this, you need to be able to focus on what’s important and avoid being distracted by what isn’t. This is called focusing your focus.
Concentration works much like a flashlight. If you shine it in the right direction it can be helpful, but pointed in the wrong direction is harmful. Likewise, if the beam of your focus is focused narrowly on a few important aspects of your ride it is helpful, but aimed too widely (on many things) is harmful.
In order to shine your focus in a positive direction you must first identify what you should concentrate on. Make a list. Also make a list of what not to focus on. These lists can make it easier to point your focus in the right direction. There are several forms of focus: Situational Focus—shining a wide beam all around to get the “big picture.” For example, walking a cross-country course. Selective Focus—Shining a narrow beam on a most important task. For example, the jump in front of you. Shifting Focus—Continually changing the direction and width of your beam of focus to adapt to changing demands. For example, the jump in front versus the options of the 3rd fence.
Since it’s been proven that you can only focus on one thing at a time, it’s important to identify what that one thing is, moment by moment. You won’t see the distractions when your focus “flashlight” is pointed in the right direction.
Remember: Stop holding on to what’s holding you back!
Published October 2013 Issue
The Colorado Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in Colorado and surrounding area. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.