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In The Stirrups - Sherree Russell talks about equestrian hypnosis

How did you come to doing what you do ?

I actually came to hypnosis and NLP to help people recover from chronic illness

It was as a result of an “AHA” moment when a friend of mine recovered from the M.E she had been suffering with for 37 years.

I decided to study to be a Trainer of the revolutionary three day program that had aided her recovery, a program called the “Lightning Process” which utilises the science of the mind/body healing connection (psycho-neuro immunology – PNI) and combines aspects of Hypnosis & NLP and life coaching.

I set up my practice in 2008 at my home in West Grinstead, after achieving the necessary qualifications of Advanced Diploma in Hypnosis, Master NLP and life coach certification.

In 2010 order to deepen my knowledge in this fast developing area of PNI - I undertook a Dip HE in Clinical Hypnosis and 2 years later graduated BSc (hons) 1st class in Clinical Hypnosis from St. Mary's University, Twickenham.

This also presented the amazing opportunity to learn more about hypnosis in sports psychology, and to conduct my own research to find out if Hypnosis can increase Horse riding confidence.

Why Equestrian Hypnotherapy ?

I am a BHS qualified AI and Int SM and we had horses at home in our small livery yard, but it was whilst poo-picking one day, that I began thinking that - if the techniques I was using with my LP clients were so powerful as to help them overcome chronic illness – could these same techniques be developed to help Horse Riders overcome some of their issues? It has been claimed that hypnosis has been used to enhance strength and sporting performance as early as 1889, but actual evidence of its use, involves a psychologist who successfully used it with basketball players in the 1940s

So I developed a series of one day un-mounted workshops in 2009 and later began to see riders for individual sessions in my practice.

What can hypnotherapy help Riders with?

Hypnotherapy is a fast, effective and comfortable technique - which can generally help with many problems that you’re finding it’s just too hard to handle on your own – thoughts and actions that you’d like to control, let go of or acquire, as well as emotional suffering that you are finding difficult to cope with, or that has just gone on for too long and is holding you back or stuck. All kinds of issues like -

Loss of confidence

  • after a fall or fearful incident

  • after having children

  • after a long break from riding

  • after losing a trusted horse

  • after and whilst going through a tough time in life.

  • Constantly doing the “What ifs” ....type of thoughts

  • Performance Anxiety and Competition Nerves.

  • Exam anxiety and stress

  • Loss of memory in dressage tests and in jumping courses.

  • Fear of Jumping

  • Fear of Hacking and open spaces.

  • Riding Spooky and young horses

  • Finding and maintaining motivation.

  • Negative Beliefs and lack of Self Esteem.

  • Loss of fun and joy in their riding.

Does it work ?

Yes it does, it is well worth taking a look at this article in Horse & Hound!

and also our website for testimonials that describe how clients have felt before and after:

What is horse riding confidence ?

Research suggests that sporting confidence is comprised of a mix of:

An excellent skill set

  • The ability to access our Flow State

  • High Self Esteem

  • Positive internal dialogue

  • Great Motivation

  • Ability to manage stress and emotions

  • Mental toughness

  • Enjoyment

  • Self efficacy – our belief in our ability to cope in a given situation.

But of course – there is another factor in our equation for Riders ......our HORSE

Ours is the only sport where our partner can chose not to co-operate with us !

Why does my horse know when I don’t feel confident?

There is what we call an ideomotor effect - an unconscious muscular movement or tension, as a response to a thought or idea - from the rider’s body, which can be felt by the horse.

This greatly influences the horse’s confidence in its rider, it’s emotional state, motivation, relaxation, focus, self confidence, effecting it’s way of going and performance ability.

This also results in a bi-directional feedback loop - a relaxed co-operate horse, is an easier and more enjoyable ride - resulting in a more relaxed, focused and confident rider able to enjoy and concentrate on the task in hand.

Explaining why relaxed riders make relaxed easy horses, and tense nervous riders make tense nervous horses.

Who are your clients

I work with riders of all ages, from novice to top level professionals across all disciplines.

How do your clients find you?

Mostly they are referred by word of mouth and by their Instructors.

A good Instructor is the most important element to success. Firstly they will ride and assess the client’s horse for suitability and temperament – both for the rider’s aspirations and skill set. Then they will have the ability to train the horse and teach the rider to improve their riding – gaining evidence of their success as they improve, therefore increasing the riders belief in themselves and their abilities. As Pat Parelli so succinctly says ”... green on green = black and blue ! ”

Of course riders can be helped emotionally to overcome fears, limiting beliefs and with motivation, but first and foremost they must have a good skill set commensurate to the job they want to do.

Do they bring their horse to a session?

No nowadays I just help Riders’ to “get their heads in the right place ! ”

I see clients without their horse, in the comfort of an armchair at my home in Surrey, and I also do sessions over Skype.

What does hypnosis feel like?

I would define the experience as being in a nice relaxed place where you can do an inner search and contemplation, and find the resources and strengths you already have - in order to deal with your issue in better way. Indeed having an active mind and imagination is a positive plus! It's not about being in a docile sleepy trance – sometimes I will need to be able to talk with you and have you respond. You will be in complete control and aware of everything around you - although you will probably be content to just be in a nice relaxed place and listen to me talk.

Hypnosis is a collaborative process – you have to be willing to “play” and contemplate the suggestions, but you can not be made to do anything you don’t want to do.

How many sessions will it take?

Because we address each client's specific issues, experience shows me that clients can achieve significant results in two to three one hour sessions.

Clients often come back for a top up at a later date - if they are going up the ladder of competition, or if they meet another challenge in their life. Nothing acts in isolation emotionally and sometimes it’s a bit like peeling back the layers of an onion – another issue appears and can be swiftly resolved.

Can you give me a technique to take away with me to use when I’m competing ?

Yes you can be taught, your practitioner can incorporate a little self hypnosis and NLP anchoring techniques where appropriate, into your sessions – so you will have the tools to take away with you to use when you need to.

Do generalised recordings that you can buy online work ?

Recording have their place (ie simple relaxation) but you really need to address each clients specific issues to get lasting changes, as everyone is different.

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