Great Britain’s leading showjumper was once described as having ice running through his veins, and today, he remains one of the coolest, most composed sportsmen competing in the top tier of the sport. But just how, exactly, does he do it?

We caught up with the 32-year-old rider at London Olympia to find out what psychological ingredients are essential for giving Brash that winning edge (and how you can find it too!).

1. Perfection Starts in the Mind

You’ve got to have a plan going into a jump-off and you’ve got to try to stick to that plan. Of course, things don’t always go as you initially intend, so you’ve got to be able to improvise. But you have to visualise your perfect jump-off round and [then] go out with that in your head.

2. Always Have a “Plan B”

For example, at Olympia last year, when I won the World Cup, my winning round wasn’t my initial plan. I remember that Fence 2 to 3 was a long five strides [even] if you caught the vertical well. I was planning to take that five, but I ended up being a bit steady and deep on my turnback to the vertical, so I waited on six strides. So it’s not the end of the world, but I do think you need that plan.

3. Consider Your Horse’s Abilities 

The quickest rounds come from the people who stay as tight as possible and as smooth as possible. But, at the same time, you can only do what your horse is capable of doing. Sometimes, people try to do things that their horse isn’t quite [prepared for], and that’s wrong.

Focus on what you’re going to try to achieve with your horse over that course. Get everything else out of your head.

4. Clear Your Mind

I’m a bad one to ask about dealing with pressure because it just comes naturally to me! But you need to stay focused on the course and what you’re going to try to achieve with your horse over that course. Get everything else out of your head.

5. Watch & Learn 

I think it’s important to watch a few of your fellow riders if you can. There have been many times [when] I’ve been in a jump-off situation where I haven’t had to go just as fast as I thought I might to win. At the same time, it could be that you have to go even faster than you ever thought you would. So look at the competition; it’s good knowledge to have.

6. If You Don’t Know, Ask 

If I’ve not been able to watch a particular rider, I will happily ask another competitor what they’ve done. Everyone is very accommodating with their advice in showjumping. It’s not like a lot of sports—I don’t think you’d find Formula 1 drivers telling each other how to go faster ’round a track. But in our sport, we do, which is good.

Photo credit: Erin Gilmore.