How to Believe You Can Be an Olympic Equestrian

How to Believe You Can Be an Olympic Equestrian

Olympic Medals

How can you believe that you can be Olympic equestrian?

One of the first things I work on with a new client is their identity. Where are they today in their lives, and where do they want to be? Because when a client asks me to coach them, it is not because they want to practice staying where they are, but rather, they wish to transition forward to a higher level of performance. And where a client lives (performance, social life, health, etc.) is usually tied to their identity and how they see themselves.

Step One: The process for moving forward is the same for everyone that wants to change. First we must see and understand where they are and why they are there at that moment. (How did they arrive there and why are they still there?) I call this phase, “What Drives You?” What are your patterns, both in your mind and with regards to your behavior? What are your thoughts, beliefs, values, and history?

The key to this step is that we do not stay there long! This is not therapy; we don’t talk endlessly about the past and the problem. Coaching is about discovering the “why”, shifting and finding the strategies for the solution. It is about taking the right action to move forward.

Step Two: Next we raise the standards. We need to decide upon and design the New Rider that you want to become. This is the fun part! So, for example, perhaps a rider is in the process of working their way to the Olympics. How do we get that person to transition from a “newbie” rider into an experienced rider? Then, how do we transition that rider from an experienced rider into a consistent rider that wins some championships? Followed by, how do we transition that amateur, “wanna-be rider” into one of the best riders? And then, finally, how do we transition a high-performing rider into an elite, professional rider; an Olympic rider? How do we navigate that bridle path, which in some cases is a wide gap, up to the next new standard? Up to the New Rider?

What we need to explore is, who is that New Rider the client plans to become? And we need to research that exactly, down to every small detail. Once we have that “picture” in mind, we need to immerse ourselves into that person’s world. What does an elite, professional rider’s world look like? What is their daily schedule and rituals? How do they train and with what type of trainer? What is their winning routine? What do they eat? How do they get in shape? How do they dress and how to do they look? How do they connect with their horses? How do they connect with their family and friends? How do they deal with their emotions and stress, and how do they prepare for a show? How do they memorize the course or their routine? What do they do with show nerves? What time do they go to bed? How often do they socialize or relax?

How do they deal with the other activities in life that they don’t have time for, commonly called the “sacrifices?” (Step one is to change THAT name!) And most importantly, what are the thoughts that run through their minds? If they are negative, how do they get rid of them? If they are positive, how did they develop that mindset and exactly what are the thoughts in their head? What things do they say to themselves to feel confidence?

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. To transition into an Olympian or “rock star” equestrian, you have to think, live, eat, practice and breathe like an Olympian, and total Immersion and extreme ownership is the key. Take on that role. Put on the costume. Fake it till you make it. And keep practicing that over and over, until you become that New Rider!

Now this is the point where a client will usually come back to me with, “But I don’t BELIEVE that I am an elite, professional rider! That’s not who I am! A ‘rock star’ (or Olympian) equestrian? Those names are just not a fit for me! How can I pretend to be someone else that I don’t believe that I am?”

Step Three: And here’s my answer to that … wait for it … you don’t need to believe it. Yup, it’s that simple! No one said anything about needing to really believe it right away. Leave that aside for the moment. In fact, stuff it in the bottom of your tack trunk and forget about it for now. Because the truth for riders is this; if you think an elite rider’s thoughts, practice like they do and really mimic exactly their inner strength, their motivation, their mental state and the rituals of their daily lives, etc., after a while you will believe that you can become that elite, “rock star” equestrian (or Olympian rider), and you will eventually make it there.

How do I know that? Because you’ve already proved that if you think, duplicate and act like an amateur “wanna-be” rider and the “trying-to-be-as-good-as-the-other-riders-with-all-the-money,” you stay that Old Rider as well. It’s hard to arrive at the show ring with that “disadvantage” and win, right? I mean, you’re setting yourself up with a disempowering mindset, and you will have to fight just that much harder to beat everyone!

But sometimes that’s the crazy leverage and strategy that riders use to win; the “come from behind” fighter mindset. They insist that they can’t motivate themselves, or get into their warrior fighting mode, unless they are “coming from behind.” That of course is a limiting belief, and not true. but it is the leverage-of-choice for procrastinators and self-proclaimed “low energy/non-type A” personalities.

(Oh, is that why you are not fully ready to go into the show ring with all the advantages of a well-prepared rider? Is it because that Old Rider identity protected you from humiliation? Maybe if you don’t win, after all that work, you can use the excuses of the “wanna-be” riders, such as “Oh, I didn’t have time to practice?”)

Because what would happen if you REALLY gave your all and then didn’t succeed? What would happen if you didn’t have any backup excuses and admitted you failed? What is the bottom line fear? Why are you holding back or sabotaging yourself? These are some of the various rocks (or issues) that we stumble upon and fix as ride forward along the bridle path of “the gap” between your Old Rider and your New Rider identities. 

So we interrupt that pattern of “half-ass” discipline, procrastination, and limiting beliefs and we replace it with the right mindset, rituals, and behaviors. What if you showed up to the show ring with the confidence and solid practice and preparedness that the Olympians show up with? What if you learned to use that “fight like hell” mindset leverage in combination with all the other advantages? What would the odds of winning be then? In fact, maybe it wouldn’t be “the odds” of winning.

Maybe winning would actually be more in your control.

How would trying your best, but still not winning, look now? With the New Rider’s mindset, you can adopt extreme ownership and say with pride, “I did (or didn’t do) my best today. The other riders performed better, but tomorrow I will be even more amazing! I am going to go back through the video and see where I WILL improve.” Isn’t that how the elite, professional riders respond? How much more empowering does that response feel? No victim with a list of excuses in that statement!

As long as your identity stays behind your goals,
that correlating, dis-empowering mindset
and lack of success rituals can easily entrap you and keep you stuck right there. You will never move forward.

The answer is, let go of your old story (fears and excuses) and marry the truth. Reverse your thinking.

Step Four: Listen, if your riding is not where you want it to be, you can blame it on your skills, your trainer, your wallet, your horse, your “better competition,” etc. But when you are ready to take complete, extreme ownership of reaching your goals and beating out your competition, then you need to choose your new identity and immerse yourself in that world and that thinking … along with all the resulting behavior that comes with it!

It doesn’t matter that you don’t REALLY believe that you’re the New Rider during the “gap time”; you just need to want to be that elite, “rock star” equestrian or Olympic New Rider, decide that you are and then practice acting as if you do believe it. Fake it till you make it!

Take losing weight. I help my clients to design a vision of who they want to be, and those clients will say to me, but I don’t believe I am a fitness model/health-nut/gym rat. How can I? I am 100 pounds overweight and addicted to sugar and borderline diabetic. My reply is this: “Well, you know that thinking and acting like ‘an identity’ will create that person and lifestyle reality, because you already proved it by thinking like an overweight person, eating like an overweight person, and refusing to exercise like an overweight person! You totally immersed yourself in that whole way of thinking and living!”

So, overweight people spent most of their lives proving my point; that you CAN create whatever identity and corresponding reality that you want! You weren’t born 100 lbs. overweight and no, it’s not because you are “big boned!” It’s because that’s who you practiced to be. And now you’ve bought that story hook, line and sinker. It has now become your identity.

And we will ALWAYS stay consistent
with who we really believe ourselves to be.

So, if your identity is that of an overweight person who is always trying to lose weight and never succeeds, that’s the story that you are holding on to and the automatic rituals you are practicing with your thoughts and behavior. But your identity was a choice. And it still is.

Step Five: For this New Rider transformation to be complete, there’s another hurdle you need to jump over while on this journey down the bridle path of the “gap.” (And for some, this is a sticking point.) I’m sorry to inform you that you need to leave the “old you” behind. Yup, no hitchhikers on this road trip! The old you, with your old story and your old, limiting beliefs, your old failures, your negative self-talk, your sabotaging behavior, THAT hitchhiker has to stay behind. And it is in this step of the process where riders will become crystal clear about all those things that were habits or a part of their old identity that was keeping them from reaching their goals. And then I teach them the tools and strategies to tackle and change every issue, one at a time.

Yup, a big part of my job is helping clients to loosen up the reins and then to let go. I help my clients with their closure on that chapter in their book. Actually, it is similar to saying good-bye to an old friend. And that’s not always easy, is it? After all, there is a lot of comfort and certainty there. I mean, we know ourselves and our patterns, and we relate to ourselves and others from that space and history between us and wow, sometimes people really have a hard time letting go of their old selves. Especially if their old self used to blame other people, places and things for the reasons why they were not successful. But blame is a totally powerless mindset. That’s the identity of a victim. And victim mindsets don’t make it to the Olympics.

Step Six: When my clients have trouble letting go, or when they let go and then decide to take a moonlit night ride back to the barn to revisit their old selves and stay a while, I have them look at the secondary gains they may be getting from staying the old rider. Safer there? Easier there? Less work? You don’t need to face your fear of failing? Afraid your friends and family might be jealous or won’t like the New (Empowered) Rider? Repeat after me: “And this is not an exhaustive list.”

If we give up that old self, then what? Then we create a vacuum and life will make sure that it is filled in, so we need to proactively choose what we will pour into that vacuum. We make a decision to select all the success principles, including extreme ownership. Then we take control of our destiny.

So let go we must if we want to move forward. Adios, au revoir, arrivederci, sayonara! In fact, I suggest that you refuse to acknowledge that old rider even existed. “Who? Nope, I have no idea who you are talking about. Never met that person.” That old rider was yesterday’s news. Reruns are boring. Today is today and tomorrow is the Olympics.

So, no more showing up to the show ring as the Old Rider; the amateur rider that trains “half-ass” and keeps doing the easy and fun equestrian activities rather than practicing the tougher (or possibly more boring) routines that will really make them grow. No more staying out late to party when there is an early class the next morning. No more overeating and finding excuses for not working out. No more “wishing for luck” and then hoping to make it around the course, or through your routine, on the whim and negative prayers that your competitor won’t do as well that day.

Is it harder to win a class when we show up as the “out-of-shape physically and mentally/thinking small Old Rider” or when we confidently arrive with the mindset and identity of a “rock star” equestrian or Olympic rider? What would happen if we showed up as an elite, professional rider; totally prepared from our practice and confident in knowing that we have a mindset that could literally walk on fire? What if we showed up as a serious equestrian athlete that is physically and mentally fit and “is in it to win it”?  

Fast forward to the New Rider winning the classes, and as the champion award is handed over to you, do you really care that you didn’t believe you were an elite equestrian professional way back then? Do you even need to dig out that “belief issue” buried at the bottom of the trunk like the old, mismatched, sweaty glove that is now stiff, crinkled up and no longer a fit? No, because it has long since been replaced with brand new gloves more fit for an elite rider. Keep that metaphor in mind.

Choose a new identity, act “as if”, add the process of total immersion and extreme ownership and slowly you will start believing that the New Rider is who you really are. The glove will finally fit.

And welcome to your new destiny!



Nancy Dye is an equestrian breakthrough mindset coach and resilience trainer helping people to transform their riding and the quality of their lifestyles.

Nancy is certified as a strategic interventionist by the official coach training school of Tony Robbins and has over 30 years as a change agent; shifting people into peak performance. 

Nancy specializes in solving the puzzle of why children, teens, and adults are not performing at their best and customizing the right strategy for “jumping over” adversity. She handles all areas of a rider’s lifestyle to include relationships, career, weight loss/physical health, and transitioning through life stages.

With a past career in corporate sales and as a luxury lifestyle Realtor, Nancy has been coached by some the top sales trainers in the corporate world, as well as by some of the most elite coaches in the world of sports. Nancy redesigns the inner lives of athletes, executives, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and elite military and veterans.

Nancy is married to Jack Miles, a former Olympian gymnast who is inducted into four athletic Hall of Fames. For one-on-one coaching or information on her workshops or riding clinics, Nancy can be reached at