Embracing Challenges: An Equestrian’s Journey with Kateryna Downer
Meet Kateryna Downer, an extraordinary equestrian with a journey that defies conventional timelines. Formerly an investment banker living in London, Kat’s life took an unexpected turn when her family moved to Monaco in 2014. It was in Monaco, after the birth of her children, that she discovered her passion for horse riding at the age of 37.
“I’m an ex-investment banker, and I lived all my life in London. In 2014, my family and I moved to Monaco, and that’s when I had my kids. It was at the age of 37 that I actually started riding,” Kat shares.
Despite starting her equestrian career later in life, Kat not only overcame challenges but thrived in the world of horse jumping, reaching heights of 120 to 130 and aspiring to go even further. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re literally not good enough,” she muses.
Confronting Fear: A Natural Element of Riding
Addressing the prevalent issue of fear in the equestrian world, Kat acknowledges that fear is a natural feeling, especially for adults.
Reflecting on her experiences, she emphasizes the importance of understanding specific fears. Initially, her fear revolved around potential injuries after a series of falls. Kat cleverly shifted her mindset by recognizing the rarity of repeated accidents under identical circumstances.
“To trick my brain into not thinking of it, I told myself, look, the likelihood for another accident exactly like this to happen is literally second to none,” she explains.
Over time, her fears transformed, encompassing concerns about embarrassment and performance anxiety. Faced with these challenges, Kat sought professional help, turning to sports psychologist Elena Kutovaiya, who has been a pivotal figure in her journey for almost five years.
Strategies for Mental Resilience
Elena introduced Kat to visualization techniques and color adaptation as part of their work on mental resilience. One notable method involves using the colors white, blue, and gold to maintain composure. “The blue color instantly calms your brain receptors and calms you down, and calms your muscles down,” Kat describes.
Another technique Kat finds beneficial is the “stop” method. Imagining a gold stop sign when feeling overwhelmed, coupled with a brief mental shift to a different topic, allows her to regain composure. “This little exercise makes wonders,” she asserts.
Setting Goals and Building Confidence
As an amateur rider, Kat emphasizes the significance of trusting one’s trainer and horse. “Your trainer is not going to set you up for a fail. If they tell you that you’re going into this class and you’re going to do well, you’ve got to trust; you are going to do well,” she advises.
Setting achievable goals is another crucial aspect Kat incorporates into her routine. “Today, I’m working every fence, or if I’m stepping up in height, my goal would be trust and go. Trust and go and go for the horse,” she explains. By focusing on specific objectives, Kat maintains her concentration and composure during challenging moments.
Building Confidence through Knowledge
Kat underlines the importance of building confidence not only for herself but also for her horses. To achieve this, she frequently watches videos of her past performances, recognizing the progress made. Additionally, she uses brain exercises, such as the Schultz table, to enhance concentration and focus.
“The horses bring great people together. Sure, sometimes you meet not such nice people, but in general, horses bring great people together,” Kat reflects on the positive aspects of the equestrian community.
Beyond Riding: Knowing Your Horse
Diving into the unique relationship between rider and horse, Kat stresses the necessity of understanding and knowing one’s horse. Her approach involves spending time learning about their needs, health, and behavior. This knowledge allows her to communicate effectively with her sports psychologist about the horse’s condition and tailor mental resilience techniques accordingly.
“Don’t ever forget that this is really the only sport where you cannot help yourself by yourself. You are there with an animal under you, and this animal can have different moods as well,” Kat acknowledges.
The Evolution of Equestrian Sports
Reflecting on the evolution of equestrian sports, Kat comments on the changing expectations for horses. She highlights the increasing technicality of courses and the visual challenges riders and horses face. “We expect the horses to be those flying Ferrari machines with turbojet engines. It’s absolutely crazy,” she remarks.
While acknowledging the sport’s growing expense, Kat also appreciates the positive aspects, such as improved Showgrounds and the camaraderie among riders. She believes that horses not only bring people together but also provide a healthy balance in life.
From conquering fears to setting and achieving remarkable goals, Kateryna Downer’s story is a vivid illustration of the transformative power of pursuing one’s dreams. In her own words, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re literally not good enough.” This insightful perspective encourages us to dream boldly, reminding us that greatness often resides just beyond the edges of our comfort zones. As Kateryna Downer continues to ascend new heights, her journey stands as an inspiration for all who dare to dream big and embrace the challenges of equestrian sports.
V. Sozzi | Photo provided by Kateryna Downer
© Rights Reserved.