Ph. Lucio Landa

Ph. Lucio Landa

Welcome to a new series on Noelle Floyd Style called “Mind Games.” A bi-monthly column written by performance and mental coach to equestrians, Annette Paterakis, this is where you’ll find the best tips and tricks for training up your psychological approach to riding and competing.

One of the biggest roadblocks on the way to success is the attempt to avoid failure at all costs. As a performance coach, I have realized that the way the riders I work with perceive failure is a good indication of not only how much they learn, grow, and succeed but also how much they enjoy the riding. The paradox of success is that, in order to succeed, we must fail often. How can we learn from failure and adopt a growth mindset? Here are three key principles to help you get there:

  1. Deliberate Practice

When babies learn to walk they will fall many, many times, but they just keep at it until they have learned how to stay balanced, how to get one foot in front of the other, and so on. They won’t quit after attempt number five and think, “I can’t do this,” or, “I am not good enough.” They just keep trying.

Often as we move up the ladder of success, we long to be at the top even more. We want to be able to ride the grand prix on Sunday together with the best riders at the show. However, constantly looking up and stretching yourself beyond your learning curve can actually hold you back.

In order to succeed at a show, you need to determine what still needs improvement and deliberately practice these skills at home. Break it up into small steps and practice until you master this specific skill before you move onto the next one. You might fail a 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 times. Just persevere, dare to try new things and you will learn more in the long run.

  1. Adopt a Growth Mindset

Talking about the “long run,” success is like a marathon, not a 100m race. Becoming a master or expert at something takes time. In fact, research shows that on average putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is one of the best ways to predict whether you will be able to succeed and become a pro, or not.

Talent on the other hand is massively overrated. Much research has been done to define talent, however, up until now, researchers have found very little evidence that talent exists, let alone determines success.

When we believe we either have, or don’t have, we will feel threatened by the idea of making mistakes. We will see it as evidence that we are not good enough, so why carry on? Adopting a “growth mindset” on the other hand means that you perceive failure as an inevitable aspect of success and know that progress is driven by the lessons you learn from your mistakes.

  1. Plan B

When you do fail, make sure you have a plan so you can quickly and effectively learn from it. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the following three questions:

  • What did I learn? Instead of beating yourself up about making a mistake, focus on the opportunity to learn.
  • How can I grow as a rider (and person) from this experience? Believe it or not, results, failures, and victories are just feedback. They show us what is going well or what still needs to get better. So take the time to think about how you can improve.
  • What are the three positive things about this experience? At first you might not believe there is anything positive about it, but this is your old perception that failure can only be negative. Give yourself some time and trigger your brain to think differently and find the positives.

Rather than shying away from failure, embrace it, learn from it and grow!

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