In this edition of Riders & Rein Sensors we’re talking to Jasmijn de Bruijn. Jasmijn has two horses: Dior and Vanilla Seven. With Vanilla Seven she rides at subtop level. “Immediately I was impressed by all the possibilities of the Rein Sensors, and not just to get feedback about the way I was communicating with my horse. The thing I am most interested in, is that we can also gain insights in the way top level riders communicate with their horses. I think this is fascinating! We can observe and analyze the way top level riders are communicating with their horses. Through this, we as riders can improve ourselves by ‘modeling’.”
As a child, Jasmijn didn’t grow up in a typical ‘horse family’. “Knowledge and knowhow about good communication with your horse was not present in our home. Neither did we have the means to learn from renowned trainers. Through trial and error I had to learn…”
Still, from a young age Jasmijn had an enormous drive to become a good dressage rider. “I wanted to dance through the arena, too! In the ‘90s Anky van Grunsven was my big example. As a young girl I devoured everything about her; books, interviews, magazine articles. If she was ever on TV, we would record it and I would repeat the video a hundred times. Every time I would try to see what exactly she was doing with Bonfire, step by step. Which aids was she giving and how did she manage to make him dance through the arena like that? I was fascinated by it, even obsessed. I wanted to know every single detail: how she looked after him, which tack she used, but mostly: how she communicated with him.”
“Of course Anky was an example who was still very far from my reality. Something else I did was looking at good riders in my direct environment. I watched them closely when they were riding, asked them about everything whenever I got the chance. Later on, when I was riding with my own pony, I tried to do what I had seen them do. Subconsciously I was already ‘modeling’.”
Much more than simply copying
Many years later, during a communication training for work, Jasmijn learned the method she used was called ‘modeling’. “Modeling is a method for transferring competences. Behavior by someone who is very good at something is thoroughly analyzed. The goal for the student is to make it their own. This can easily be mistaken for simply copying, but this is absolutely not the case. It goes much further than that!”
Developing yourself or learning something through modeling is only possible if you’re able to completely get into the mind of the person you want to learn from. This goes as follows:
- Choose your role model. Pick a rider or trainer you really admire as your role model. This could be because of their general vision on training horses, but also because of a single aspect. For example, your role model could exceed at riding a perfect extended trot or beautiful half-passes. You might want to learn how to ride those exercises like that. On the other hand, you could admire someone because they consistently train well performing Grand Prix horses.
- Observing and analyzing. Once you’ve selected a role model and know what exactly you want to learn from them, you start observing and analyzing them. Modeling only works if you invest a lot of time in thorough observation. Make sure you know all the details about your example; which values and principles does your role model have? This is not just about handling horses, but also in a wider sense. Which emotions are involved? Which actions does your role model perform and in which order? How does your role model handle stress, tension and expectations? How does your role model move their body, both on and off the horse? What language and in what tone does your role model speak? Details can make the difference, so it is important to know these details.
- Let go of your own prejudices, judgements and principles. Essential in modeling is that you let go of ALL your own principles and thoughts. The only way to completely get into the mind of your role model and learn from them, is if you can let go of all your own thoughts, prejudices, judgements and behavioral patterns. This is the hardest step, because people are creatures of habit. Let’s name a simple example. Imagine you have the habit to reward your horse with a sugar cube, but your role model does this with a pat on the neck. Then you will only reward your horse with a pat on the neck during this phase. You leave out the sugar cubes.
- Imitate! When you have a very good image of the successful strategy of your role model and know all the details, you get to work. You try to imitate your role model’s behavior in detail. An important aspect of this is visualization; visualize you’re executing every action the same way your role model does. Only by imitating the exact behavior you find out what the effect is of your role model’s successful strategy. Pay attention to the effect of every action you imitate. Which response does your horse give you? What does it do for you? Is the execution exactly the same as your role model’s?
- Evaluate. Are you able to imitate your role model’s behavior successfully? If so, you continue to step 6. If not, you go back to step 2.
- Make it your own. As soon as you manage to successfully imitate your role model’s behavior, you can slowly start to leave out small details and see what the effect is. Imagine your goal was to make your horse perform a square halt as perfectly as your role model’s. Can you still do this when you’re not rewarding your horse with your voice anymore? And if you start rewarding him with a sugar cube again? What happens then? In this phase you start to slowly leave out some details. You don’t have to do this if your role model’s behavior works so well for you and your horse, that everything goes perfectly. Of course you don’t change anything then, but integrate the strategy and principles of your role model into your own riding and handling of your horse. You’re actually discovering the successful elements of your role model’s strategy this way, that your role model is probably executing subconsciously.
- Success! The modeling process is successful if you know how your role model behaves when he or she is successful, and you’ve been able to integrate the successful elements into your own riding.
Modeling any time, any place
As you’ve been able to read, it goes much further than simply copying a top level rider. Jasmijn points out there are many advantages of this way of learning and developing. “You can apply it any time, any place, and with anyone! You don’t even have to know someone personally to model something from them. Using the internet, you can find a lot of information about someone’s vision or their way of riding. You can find videos of competitions, results, websites, social media, everything! The possibilities are endless! You can select a role model and model their entire vision/approach, but you could also model only a certain aspect. For example, riding changes; imagine you know someone who can ride beautiful changes, and you want to learn how to do that too. Then you put the focus on riding changes.
Pause – play – rewind – play
Jasmijn points out that not only the internet offers many possibilities to model top level riders’ successes. Other innovations in the field of equestrian sports do that as well. This is the reason she is so fascinated by the Rein Sensors. “Rein sensors are another tool that enables us to observe and analyze top level riders’ communication with their horse even more. Where I had to watch the tape of Anky and Bonfire’s test a hundred times when I was younger and still had to guess the exact aids she was giving, now we can easily see this on the display of the Rein Sensors.”
“The first time Menke showed me a video of Imke Schellekens-Bartels riding with rein sensors, in which it was very obvious that she only gave two rein aids in a circle and nothing else, it was a real eye-opener for me. Ah! So that’s how she communicates with her horse! The next step I’m going to make is to try and ride a circle with only two rein aids. Just a little more patience and I will be able to objectively measure whether I’ve been able to successfully integrate the strategy into my own riding!”
Modeling and sport
“Developing yourself and improving your performance as an athlete through modeling is nothing new. In other sports this method is applied often as well. For instant, think of ex volleyball coach Toon Gerbrands, football coach Marco van Basten, but also Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen. We know that Max Verstappen spent hours, days, weeks, months analyzing footage of top drivers. In the footage he studied which exact steering movements they made, among other things. This has made a major contribution to his success.”
Jasmijn has been involved with IPOS since 2017 because of her creativity, background in management and organization, and her writing skills. Jasmijn is one of our regular bloggers, and our Education Manager. You will see much more of her work on this website.