Photos by Bret St Clair for NF Style

In an ideal world, we would always be in our own bubble, completely focused at the task at hand and nothing would be able to distract us, not even our own thoughts. Unfortunately this is not always the case. To better understand how we can be and stay in our zone or in “Flow,” we must first better understand how “Flow” works.

The way we get into “Flow” is very personal, and it strongly depends on how we deal with pressure. When we understand how we respond to pressure, we will know how we can get into “Flow.” Performing under pressure follows an inverted U-curve. When pressure goes up, performance goes up. However, there is a tipping point. At the top of the curve, we are in “Flow.” When we go over the tipping point, we crack under the pressure and get nervous, anxious, or stressed.

Ph. Google

Ph. Google

As you can see, some people are naturally laid back; they tend to be very relaxed about stuff. They are in their own little world and might get bored when at a small or unimportant training show. They lack pressure and therefore perform best when the pressure is on and the stakes are high. They need pressure to perform at their best. A few ways to get into flow for the “Laid back” people:

  • Get your adrenaline up by waking up your muscles (running, boxing, jumping up and down, or tapping on muscles).
  • Listen to upbeat music.
  • Visualize your course into great detail, and if there might be some difficulties around the track, visualize exactly how you will solve or avoid them.
  • Direct yourself to be 100 percent focused, even when it is an easy show, class, or horse.

There are also riders who are on the other side of the curve. They tend to get nervous more easily, distracted quickly, and get into a “Fight or Flight” mode just by thinking of the upcoming show. They need relaxation to get back to their “Flow”-state. A few ways to do this are:

  • Practice a low breathing exercise regularly. It is not enough to use it when you need it the most. Practicing this regularly will make all the difference. (For those interested in learning how to do this, please send me an email through the link below, and Ill send through a recorded exercise which you can follow.)
  • Bring your attention down to your feet, stirrups, or horse; really focus on what you feel for a few moments.
  • Visualize your best round, ever, and exactly how you want to ride your next class

The best way to recognize when you are in “Flow” is when everything seems to proceed naturally. You and your horse become one and you are relaxed, yet very focused. Time seems to be standing still, the distances all come easily, and you’re having fun!

annetteWith a background in the show jumping sport, Annette Paterakis is a performance coach, specialized in mental coaching equestrians. She is passionate about working with riders to help them better understand the mind and to provide the framework for creating the right conditions to reach peak performance.

For more information on Paterakis, please visit her website at