High wire horsemanship tips from Nik Wallenda…and Stacy Westfall

Nik Wallenda made an interesting statement in the interview he gave leading up to his daring walk across the Grand Canyon on a high wire. As reporters documented his preparation at a training camp in Florida, complete with wind gusts from both nature and huge fans, he explained part of his mental as well as physical preparation.

In essence he said (I don’t have the actual quote) that when he is on the practice wire he visualizes walking over the canyon-and when he is over the canyon, he will visualize being on the practice wire.

It was a short statement made in the middle of the long interview leading up to the actual crossing but it contains a HUGE truth. For years as I have coached people headed into the show arena I have challenged them to ‘ride at home like you will at the show –and- show like you ride at home’. To further explain I tell them ‘if you have a tendency to shift your saddle twice to the left before doing a right lead departure then do it at home when you practice.’

To take it one step further I also challenge them to get nervous at home. If that involves inviting a friend over or setting up a video camera that is fine, either way you will learn something about how you handle that nervous feeling.

This small tip can help make riders more aware of the things they change when they head to the pen, if you don’t believe me then take it from the man on the high wire!


  1. Bill Swart on July 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I was 82 last summer when I resumed riding after a 12 year layoff due to getting hurt when bucked off a mustang (my fault).. Got a Paso Fino. Marvelous. Hips & knees tolerated that wonderul gait. Got ribbons in all 3 shows. But this Spring hips would not let me straddle the saddle. Is to weep. Bill Swart

  2. Heidi on July 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Reblogged this on Horsin' Around and commented:
    Here is something to think about from Stacy Westfall. So simple, yet hard to practice!
    Also, Nik Wallenda is an amazing inspiration!

  3. rcatheron on July 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    We’ve been following Nik’s high wire walk and interviews! Two points in agreement with you: When I was a physical training instructor at Navy boot camp, we always taught the recruits to “train the way you test, and test the way you train.” We also taught them that physical training is 90% mental, and only 10% physical. Your body will do what your mind tells it!

  4. Chanoah Warren on July 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    This guy is amazing! Thanks for the great tips Stacy!

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