Why Psychological Factors Play a Key Roll in Show Jumping

Psychological Factors Play a Key Roll in the Physical Sport of Show Jumping

By Jim Hickey | Show Jumping

Confident, Consistent, Clears

Join International sports psychologist for show jumpers Jim Hickey on a journey to exceed your expectations in the ring.

Sep 20
show jumping Psychological Factors

Everyone can agree that it takes a great amount of physical strength to compete in the art of show jumping.  However, psychologists are starting to realise that riders must also exercise an equally great amount of psychological control such as with attention and emotions, in order to keep negative thinking in check.  

Dr. Inga Wolframm is determined to uncover the secret behind this psychological control and particularly the skills required to acquire it.   She asks the important questions: “Can we teach them?” and “What are they?”  

Although these skills have been explored in great detail for other sports around the world, they have yet to be researched for any equestrian athletic event.  Dr. Wolframm and her partner ElinOttersky have developed a study to find out exactly what the connection is between psychological control and show jumping.  

TOPS-E, or the Test of Performance Strategies for Equestrians, directly measures equestrian athletes’ psychological skills and strategies on a competition level as well as during practice.   

Dr. Woframm and Ottersky recruited 73 American show jumpers and hunting riders and asked them to self-asses themselves using the TOPS-E in the areas of emotional control, negative thinking, relaxation, ability to keep attention, automaticity, and goal-setting.  Their findings were very interesting.

After several years of repetition and practice, show jumpers learn to unconsciously perform many skills and tasks automatically while in the active state of riding.  The research also proves that international riders have a significantly higher level of automaticity than those who ride regionally or even nationally.  The finding basically proved that the higher level your skill set was, the higher level of automaticity you acquired. 

When comparing men and women, the researched found that males were less likely to engage in negative thinking than their female counterparts.  The researchers confirmed that this finding was similar to those found in non-equestrian sports.  

Even more interesting, when considering external versus internal factors, more experienced riders focused less on external factors and more on maintaining mental abilities and positive attitudes while less experienced riders seemed to focus too much on external factors.

Probably the most optimistic finding of the research was the fact that all of these negative mentalities could be unlearned with time, practice, and experience.  According to Dr. Wolframm, “The more time you give yourself in the practice ring, the more time you give yourself as a ride, the greater the chance also your mental skills will improve, which will eventually also help you to improve your performance.”

Do you know you have what it takes to move to the next level of your show jumping career but feel something is holding you back? Get in touch with show jumping sports psychologist Jim Hickey today or why not sign up for some free online show jumping lessons.


About the Author

Jim Hickey is an author, business mentor and international peak performance for show jumpers.