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Winning The Mind Game

May 31st, 2017 by Simone Cobb

When people participate or watch sports many people make the statement, ‘mind over matter’ or ‘it’s all about your mental game,’ but how many athletes train their brain to prepare for a competition?

“When you get to those really elite levels [of sports], you have athletes telling you it’s 96-97-98 percent mental,” said mental skills coach Tonya Johnston. “[People need to] understand that your mental skills are absolutely apart of the package as far as seeing yourself as an athlete.”

Johnston has her Masters in sports psychology and specializes in working with equestrian athletes, traveling across the holding clinics and working with equestrian sports teams such as Stanford, Smith and USC. Johnston emphasizes in her clinics and book “Inside your Ride,” that taking time to work on your mental game is just as important as working on the physical aspect. country

“When you spend 10, 12, 15 hours a week on physical and zero hours on mental skills, that could be where nerves and stress come from,” Johnston said. “Because I believe it’s much more mental activity, my competing is much more mental but all of my practice is in the physical realm.”

Johnston states that when your physical game is to a certain level, when it comes to competition day it is about making good choices mentally while in the moment.

“[When] the physical is dialed in, they know how to get the most out of themselves, they know how to connect with their horse and communicate with their horse and they understand that on any given day it’s about being present,” Johnston said.

One of the best pieces of advice Johnston mentioned was focusing on the positive.

Many people focus on bad days [and ask] what did I do? What happened? Why didn’t I ride well?” Johnston said. “I look first and foremost at good days-what are you already doing naturally and help that become part of [your] routine.”

Some other ways Johnston recommended to become more consistent and improve your mental game in the arena is by:

  • Visualizing
  • Tracking goals
  • Making sure your energy is in a good place
  • Making sure you’ve got a routine in place

Lastly Johnston notes that it’s just as important for you to have a routine as much as your “horse before competing, such as stretching, loosening up and having a plan for when you’re in a hotel.

“When you have an amazing run, think back to how did you prepare yourself, where was your focus, what were you saying to yourself, what were you doing before you got on your horse,” Johnston said.

To hear more tips from Tonya Johnston, listen to the full interview at:  (Gold and Platinum members get full access to podcasts, Silver members get access for seven days when new podcasts are uploaded.)

They Don’t Just Hula In Hawaii!

February 2nd, 2017 by Simone Cobb

By Bailey Bryan

Generally when one hears the word “Hawaii” there are visions of palm trees, drinking coconuts, warm beach, a red sunset, pineapples, luaus and of course hula dancing…so how do cutting horses fit? Think about it – no, really. How does an island get resources for such a complex sport that requires cattle, horses and land?

CHTO asked member and former Hawaiian cutter, Dee West, all about it. Dee relocated to Texas to be in cutting’s capital.

Though today there are many differences between cutting in Hawaii and other mainland areas, like Texas, West began cutting in Hawaii from 1971 through 1973, where she said the main difference was the cattle.

“Back then cattle weren’t so in-bred. Cattle were slower and easier to cut and hold,” West said. “Now you have faster, tough cows, but it’s hard to have fresh cattle in all classes.”

When West was cutting in Hawaii, there was only one class; however, even though the sport has grown, obtaining fresh cattle for everyone on an island can be quite difficult as well as not always possible.
Just to show in Hawaii, West would have to fly to the main island of Hawaii and then take a barge and at the time there were only two stables on Oahu.

Dee West cutting in Hawaii.

“Every weekend we would put our horses on a barge to different islands. It was so much fun, but a full day of showing,” West said.

Even though there was only one class for cutting then and there was no prize money, ribbons were enough of an incentive to spark the interests of most and continue to help the sport grow.

West stated that Hawaiians are known for their competitiveness and everyone wanted to win, making ribbons and bragging rights a valuable prize worth traveling and competing for.

During her time in Hawaii, West showed a palomino stallion named Skippers Count and together, they won pleasure, trail and cutting events. West credits her passion for horses and cutting to stem from her experiences on the big island.

Despite cutting not being as big a sport in Hawaii when West resided there, the idea of the sport became big as the years went on. As a more serious contender, West moved to the mainland to continue to compete but says she “feels blessed to have had the opportunity to learn about cutting” in Hawaii.

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