Let’s get this off the table first: No, we’re not talking about hypnotizing your horses. But if they aren’t getting you where you need to be fast enough, and you can’t afford to buy better horses, here’s a story for you—and it’s true.
A pro polo player (who prefers not to be identified) was losing ride-offs that kept his team from scoring crucial goals in a major Florida tournament. He was depressed because he believed the other teams’ horses outclassed his so much that he’d never be able to compete against them. He felt he was letting his team down and may not be invited back next season.
A friend suggested he see Wellington hypnotherapist Laura King, who has helped polo players at all levels with various obstacles that were holding them back. He scoffed. “What’s she going to do, buy me a new string?”
Of course not. But King did have an idea for him: “What if I hypnotize you to believe that your horses are as good as anyone else’s?” You can just imagine his reaction: “That’s ridiculous! It’s not going to help me at all.”
King said, “Well, it has helped a lot of other people.” She guarantees that many problems will be remedied in four one-hour sessions, so he figured he had nothing to lose. “Okay, go ahead,” he said in a tone that seemed like a dare.
When he came in for his next session, he was elated. “I can’t believe it! My horses were the best last weekend that they’ve ever been. And I didn’t change anything about how I played them,” he said. “What did you do?”
Nothing. The player did the work. As King explains, “All hypnosis is really self-hypnosis, and all hypnosis is relaxation. I don’t ‘do’ anything. I just guide a person into a relaxed state where they are more open” to helpful suggestions or advice they might normally ignore or brush off. In that state, she says, “You can easily make positive changes.
Although you are deeply relaxed, hypnosis brings you into a state of heightened awareness and laser-focus that enables you to block out everything else and concentrate on your goal. “The hypnotist has no magical power. You are aware and in control the entire time,” says King. “Your subconscious mind decides whether to accept or reject a suggestion. No hypnotist can make you think or do anything.”
Some people don’t even realize they’ve been hypnotized until it works, says King. “Most people say they can’t be hypnotized. But technically everybody is hypnotizable. You go in and out of hypnosis all the time and never even realize it,” she says. For example, worry is a state of hypnosis. So is driving a stretch of road and not remembering it.
King describes hypnotherapy as “helping the subconscious mind get reprogrammed, like rewiring the hard drive of a computer.” It’s not going to change the computer (or your mind); it’s going to help you change whatever within yourself is holding you back. In the polo player example above, the player simply didn’t believe in his horses. Without realizing it, he rode them the way he expected them to go, so they did. They sensed that was what he wanted. You could play a clone of Cuartetera, but if you thought you were on a different, lower-caliber horse, it wouldn’t perform like a Cuartetera. Different expectation, different result.
Hypnotherapy has helped players with other problems that hinder performance. The most common player issues, says King, are concentration and fear. For example, if your game is scheduled on a field where you had a serious accident or even just a terrible previous game, you may be superstitious or genuinely afraid of the same thing happening again. Either way, it’s likely to affect your performance.
“We can’t hypnotize all fear out of the mind, but we can hypnotize the fear that’s not real for the moment,” says King. The key, she adds, is “getting rid of the triggers associated with that event.”
Laura King is a certified sports hypnotherapist and owner of Summit Hypnosis & Wellness in Wellington. She is the author of two books, “The Power to Win” and “Perfect Enough,” which include tips and self-hypnosis tools. More information: laurakinghypnosis.com
Photography: Helen Cruden