Barbra Schulte is a professional cutting horse trainer who has become known for her expertise as a personal performance coach as well. Schulte teaches riders to incorporate performance-enhancing strategies into their daily routine to not only improve their overall well-being, but also their relationship with their horse and their competitive skills. We asked Schulte to shed light on some of her proven strategies, and here’s what she had to say.
Barrel Horse News: You focus a lot on the importance of physical wellness and how it affects mental focus. What is the correlation, and why is it important?
Schulte: If we think about our bodies as a hard drive of a computer and our skills on a horse like software or an app—without the hardware, without a healthy hard drive, we can’t run the application. It’s exactly the same with our bodies. Without a healthy, rested, hydrated body, we cannot perform. The stronger we are in our physical bodies, the stronger we are in our emotions and the stronger we are going to be when we ride. Take, for instance, core strengthening. When you get strong in your core, you can sit better and have better balance and you just feel more well-rounded. But it’s also important because our abdominal area in our bodies is the seat of our emotions. That’s why you feel queasy when you get nervous. Core strengthening is very important. Things like blood sugar can also affect your physical state. Sugar spikes in the body affect our emotions, so keeping it at an even level, especially during performance, is vital.
BHN: Why is it important for riders to protect their mental state and what are some things they can do to achieve good mental focus?
Schulte: When we take time every morning, and perhaps every evening, to just completely relax and do things as simple as inhaling and exhaling 10 times for the purpose of being still and relaxing, it is a wonderful physical rejuvenator. We learn how to condition ourselves to be calm. Then you can associate something as simple as a deep breath with being relaxed. Keeping our perspective of our purpose, along with being relaxed, is a wonderful daily exercise that’s enjoyable and helps us to call up that picture when we get into a more stressful situation where we have to really perform on demand.
BHN: What are a few simple steps a competitor can take to prepare their body the day of a competition?
Schulte: Allow plenty of time to get ready so you’re not hurried. Sleep is a huge factor in performance, so being well-rested is important. Increase meditation time when things get kind of hectic, like when you’re getting ready to leave. When we start to get more excited, some of those things go out the window. This is really the time when it needs to be increased so you can feel increasingly grounded about what you’re about to do. Again, out with the sugar. Keep blood sugar at an even level, which means something with protein, a good carbohydrate and a good fat. Almonds, healthy beef jerky, vegetables with a hummus dip, all of those kinds of things in small amounts all through the day are much better than going three or four hours and being famished and eating a hot dog. Planning ahead with small amounts of food is an awesome way to maintain a good physical state and, in turn, keep your mental focus. The easier we can be on our bodies and the more rested and hydrated we are, the better we can perform.