Stevie Delahunt is a Californian equestrian adventuress who’s competed in the world’s toughest horse races, including the 100-mile Tevis Cup endurance race, the grueling 1,000 km Mongol Derby, the 350km Race the Wild Coast, and the 10-day Gaucho Derby.
Taking part in these races means spending up to 13 hours in the saddle a day, navigating technical terrain in treacherous weather conditions and, potentially, in the dark. So while the Gaucho Derby tests the riders’ survival skills with its mountainous terrain and blizzards, the Wild Coast has them glued to their GPS’s, searching for the only narrow path that will take them safely through the rocky ravines.
Alongside her husband, Dylan, Stevie runs Intergalactic Equine – a business based in Lotus, California – and hosts regular horsemanship boot camps where she shares her secrets for success, a few of which she’s agreed to share with She Can readers this month.
You Need Mental Toughness To Triumph
“Horse-riding is one of those equalizing things,” Stevie says, “it has less to do with strength than a mental strength, and that is something that men and women have equality in.”
Mental strength is developed the same way as physical strength – by exercising those mental muscles. The more we can nurture positive habits and squash the negative thoughts that tell us we’re not good enough, the more likely we will succeed.
Patience Is As Important As Ambition
In any equestrian competition, the relationship between horse and human is crucial and never more so than in the Mongol Derby, where you change horses several times a day.
As competitive as you may be, winning a race like the Derby is a process that requires patience as well as determination.
Understanding your horse is also key. Stevie explains, “It’s our goals that we’re setting for them, and they have no idea what those are.”
It’s All About Making A Connection
“Being able to have an open heart and an open connection to the horse you’re riding is integral to being successful,” she adds.
Establishing a connection with a horse is a little different from embarking on one with another human being. Be in the boardroom or the bedroom, a little trust and respect go a lot further than dominance or fear.
Emotional Intelligence Takes You To The Finish Line
Emotional intelligence is the key to establishing those connections. It enables us to “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions, and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.” So, for example, if we have a positive approach to a person, complementing them or thanking them for a favor, we get a positive response.
This concept is what Stevie teaches in her boot camp. “I tell my students to approach the horse like they’d approach a human they wanted to make friends with.”
Harness The Power Of Your Past And Future Selves
Although emotional intelligence requires you to stay emotionally present, for Stevie, that “is a short, fleeting moment.” As she tells her Californian boot camp participants, you need your past and future selves to back up your present self in the tough moments.
“I constantly play a little time travel game,” Stevie explains, “The past self has put in too much work for you to quit and, if you spend some time thinking about all the work that you’ve done to get yourself to that point, that’s gonna help you not give up.”
As for your future self, what would it think of you if you gave up, and what advice may it have? For example, would your future self tell you to quit or try harder?
View Your Life Through A Child’s Eyes
Stevie also uses her past self to keep her present self on track. “I always say that I’m doing what 8-year-old me would want me to do.”
“If 8-year-old you approve of what you’re doing, you’re probably doing the right thing,” she adds, “because that was back when you were idealistic and had great vision.”
As adults, we tend to lose that vision, but if we hold onto it and accept that it won’t all be plain sailing, we should be on the right road – one that leads us to a place where work doesn’t feel like work at all.
As Stevie says, “I just love what I’m doing, and I know this is what I’m supposed to do, so that makes it much easier.”
It’s Easier On The Exhale So Let It Go
For Stevie, getting to where she is today has taken “a long, bumpy road,” as is often the case when we pursue our dreams.
Along the way, there are always moments when we doubt ourselves or find negative emotions threaten to overwhelm us, but, as Stevie tells her students, if we allow ourselves to let go, to breathe out, we’ll find it so much easier.
“I always tell myself everything is easy to do on the exhale. So if I feel something rising in me, I breathe out, push it down through my body.”
These are only a few snippets of the wisdom Stevie shares with her students during her boot camps in California. In addition, Stevie helps her students develop their own secrets for success by interacting with horses, so whether you’re dreaming of winning the Tevis Cup or want to increase your mental strength, why not drop her a line?