The effect of mental skills training on non-elite dressage performance

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  • 298 Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Vol 6, No 5, September/October 2011intervention (mean somatic anxiety scores: 6.32 vs. 4.96; Z523.36; p , 0.001). Horse-rider combinations also scoredsignificantly higher on obedience scores following the train-ing program (mean obedience scores: 23 vs. 24; Z 5 23.5;p , 0.001). A positive trend was seen for levels of self-confidence pre-and post intervention (mean self-confidencescores: 11.1 vs. 11.8; Z 5 21.89; p . 0.05), yet nostatistically significant difference could be found for cogni-tive anxiety. Results suggest that following the trainingprogram, riders may have felt more in control of theirimmediate environment, including their horses. This in turnmay have had a positive effect on levels of physical tensionand feelings of self-confidence. Practical implications are thatground work training based on principles of positive andnegative reinforcement are likely to have a beneficial effecton horse-rider communication, improving obedience in thehorse under-saddle and in-hand and increasing physicalrelaxation and feelings of self-confidence in the rider.

    Key words: equine obedience; horse-rider communication

    INVESTIGATING DIFFERENCES IN SELF-REGULATIONBETWEEN NOVICE, INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCEDEQUESTRIAN RIDERSI.A. Wolframm1,*, J. Foshag1, C. Kobbe11University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein,Wageningen, The Netherlands*Corresponding author:

    Research into a wide variety of sports has shown thatappropriate levels of self-regulation, e.g. an athletes abilityto regulate cognitive, emotive and motivational processes,can help improve performance. Anecdotal evidence sug-gests that communication and performance of the horse-rider dyad may be improved if the rider is able to monitorand control his own cognitions, emotions and levels ofmotivation. The current study aims to investigate differencesin self-regulatory skills in the equestrian population. Theassess levels of somatic anxiety, cognitive anxiety and self-confidence. In order to test equine obedience, horse-ridercombinations were required to negotiate an obstaclecourse in-hand comprising 5 different obedience tasks.Horses were scored by the researchers on a 4-point Likertscale for each task depending on their level of obedience.Rider-horse combinations then participated in a 6-weekstructured groundwork training program aimed at improvinghorse-rider communication. Riders were taught how to giveeffective aids based on principles of negative and positivereinforcement thereby improving obedience of the horse. Atthe end of the intervention riders were once again required tocomplete theWAI-S and complete another obstacle course in-hand, featuring the same tasks but in a different order. Equineobedience scores as well as pre-and post anxiety and self-confidence scores were tested for significant differencesusing Wilcoxon Signed Ranks tests. Findings revealed asignificant decrease in somatic anxiety scores pre-and postLK 5, 4 or 3, and advanced riders at LK 2 or 1. Two-waybetween-subjects MANOVA tests were used to examinecompetence-by-gender interactions in VKS scores. Post hocanalysis was conducted independently for each VKS sub-scale using one-way univariate ANOVA tests. An alpha levelof 0.05was used to indicate statistical significance and partialeta squared effect sizes (partialh2)were calculated for signif-icant results. No significant interactive effect between genderand competence was found (F8,554 5 .83; p . 0.05), norwas there a main effect for gender (F4,276 5 1.4; p . 0.05).A significant main effect was found for competence levels(F8,554 5 2.39; p , 0.05), however, the effect size was rela-tively small (partial h2 5 .03). Post-hoc comparisons re-vealed significantly higher self-optimisation scores inintermediate than in novice riders (63.6 6 11.1 vs. 59.8 612; p, 0.05). Activation default scores were found to be sig-nificantly lower in intermediate than in novice riders (5.464.4 vs. 7.5 6 5; p , 0.05). Lastly, loss of focus scores werealso significantly lower in intermediate than in novice riders(3.9 6 3.6 vs. 5.3 6 4.1; p , 0.05). Findings suggest thatnovice riders possess comparatively fewer self-regulatoryskills than intermediate riders. Surprisingly, advanced ridersdid not score significantly differently to novice or intermedi-ate riders. However, thismay have been due to comparativelysmall numbers of advanced riders participating in the study.Practical implications are that in addition to developing skillsrelated to equitation, novice riders should work on theirability to remainmotivated and focused while riding. Equita-tion instructors may also want to expand their own knowl-edge base regarding self-regulatory processes in order to beable to provide appropriate support to riders.

    Key words: equestrian rider; self-regulation; equineperformance

    THE EFFECT OF MENTAL SKILLS TRAINING ON NON-ELITEDRESSAGE PERFORMANCEI.A. Wolframm1,*, D. Micklewright21University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein,Wageningen, The Netherlands2University of Essex, Colchester, UK*Corresponding author:

    Despite substantial evidence concerning the effectiveness ofmental skills training in sports performance, only a limited60-item German Volitionale Komponenten im Sport inven-tory (VKS; volitional components in sport) examines fourdimensions of self-regulatory skills, including self-optimi-sation, self-blocking, activation default and loss of focus. TheVKS was distributed via email to 285 German riders (meanage 24.46 6 5.61; 246 female, mean age 23.86 6 4.64; 46male, mean age 28.216 8.81). Participants were divided intonovice (N 5 122), intermediate (N 5 135) and advancedriders (N5 28), depending on their competitive level.Noviceriders were defined as competing at the German performancelevel Leistungsklasse (LK) 0 or LK6, intermediate riders at

  • skills they used in preparation for a competitive event.psychological skills, including (lack of) confidence, mental

    Abstracts 299Interviews were transcribed verbatim and then examined fordifferences or common themes.Mental preparation skills usedby elite riders but absent in preparation routines of non-eliteriders were used as a basis to devise a mental trainingintervention program. The intervention comprised of an initialmeeting introducing sport psychology in equestrian sports,followed by 5 sessions covering goal-setting, relaxationtechniques, self-talk, concentration training and imagery. Forthe second part of the study, 10Dutch non-elite dressage riders(mean age 23.3 6 2.8) competing from novice to advanced-medium levelwere recruited.All riders were used as their owncontrols and were required to ride in three dressage compe-titions in their region and at their competitive level. Compe-titions were judged by appropriately qualified judges from theDutch National Equestrian Federation. Riders had to partic-ipate in an initial competition approximately 68 weeks priorto the study. All riders competed for the second time approx-imately 1-2 weeks prior to the intervention and a third, finaltime upon completion of the 6-week intervention trainingprogram. Dressage performance was measured in percentagepoints. For the duration of the intervention training programriders participated once a week in a 2-hour session coveringeach of the different mental training topics. A one-wayrepeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant effectfor time between the three competitive results (WilksLambda5 0.42; F2,85 5.5; p, 0.05). No significant differ-ence was found between initial and pre-intervention dressagescores (p. 0.05). Post-hoc paired-samples t-tests showed thatpost-intervention performance scores (61.73 6 3.07) weresignificantly higher than pre-intervention scores (58.26 2.98;t9 5 23.43; p , 0.01). Findings suggest that mental skillstraining may have a positive effect on competitive dressageperformance in non-elite riders, which may be due to im-proved horse-rider communication and interaction. Practicalimplications are that in addition to improving equitation skillsriders and trainers should alsoworkon relevantmental trainingtechniques.

    Key words: mental skills training; dressage performance;elite rider

    THE USE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS IN NOVICE,INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED EQUESTRIAN RIDERSI.A. Wolframm*, J.S. Foshag, C. KobbeUniversity of Applied Science, Van Hall Larenstein(Wageningen UR), Postbus 411 6700 AK Wageningen, NL*Corresponding author: inga.wolframm@wur.nlnumber of studies have investigated their effect in equestriansports. The aims of the current study were to identifydifferences in mental skills between elite and non-elite ridersand to investigate the effects of a mental skills trainingprogram on ridden performance in non-elite riders. For thefirst part of the study, 4 elite and 4 non-elite riders wererecruited for semi-structured interviews on the type of mentalpreparation, performance motivation, team emphasis and(lack of) task regulation. The PSIS-G15 was distributed viaemail to 285 German riders (mean age 24.46 6 5.61; 246female, mean age 23.866 4.64; 46 male, mean age 28.2168.81). Participants were divided into novice (N 5 122),intermediate (N 5 135) and advanced riders (N 5 28),depending on their competitive level (German Leistungs-klasse). Novice riders were defined as holding LK0 orLK6, intermediate riders having gained LK 5, 4 or 3, andadvanced riders holding LK 2 or 1. Data were examined forstatistical differences in the use of psychological skillsbetween competitive levels and according to gender withinthose levels. One-Way ANOVA tests revealed statisticallysignificant differences between competitive levels for men-tal preparation (F2,282 5 4.08; p , 0.05) and performancemotivation (F2,2825 5.4; p , 0.001). Post-hoc comparisonsusing the Tukey HSD test indicated that intermediate ridersscore significantly higher in mental preparation than noviceriders (14.8 6 2.3 vs


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