Inside a Winning Mindset with International Competitor Michelle Rodal

When it comes to crafting a winning mindset, Michelle Rodal is the champ. Michelle’s an accomplished Grand Prix rider (and that’s putting it lightly) who has participated in four FEI World Cup Finals. She’s represented the United States in numerous Nations Cup competitions before recently beginning to ride in International competition under the Mexican flag. She also earned an MBA and currently runs boutique sales operation Morgan Hill Partners, Inc. Michelle is obviously wildly successful, but when you meet her, you can instantly tell that it’s pure passion for the sport and the horses that drives Michelle in every aspect of her riding life and career. Still, that lifestyle equates to a lot of pressure, so we sat down to chat with Michelle about how she mentally prepares for success in and out of the ring, and her practical tips for getting the most out of every horse and every ride.

Hi Michelle! Can you let us in on a few highlights of your career thus far? – 4 time World Cup Finalist 2009 – 2012 (Las Vegas, Geneva, Leipzig, Hertogenbosch)

– Winner East Coast World Cup Jumping League -2010/2011

– Winner World Cup Qualifiers – CSI 3* San Juan Capistrano (2011) and CSI 3* Thermal (2012).

– Member of the Senior Meydan FEI Nations Cup Tour ( Falsterbo, Hickstead, Dublin) – 2009

– Gold medal team member – Nations Cup CSIO 4* Buenos Aires Argentina – 2008 – Melisimo

– Winner of the Maxine Beard Award -2009
(The Maxine Beard Award is presented annually to young riders who have proven their talents in the sport of show jumping and also show great potential to represent the USA in Nations Cup competitions and international championships in the future.)

– Team Gold and Team Silver NAJYRC.

How do you mentally prep for an important class?

Typically if I am preparing for an important class I would have a plan many months before the class trying to have my horse as ready as possible. Every rider has their own system but for me I like knowing we did everything we could to keep the horses happy and ready to compete. I am a visual learner so it really helps me to study through video. I video every class and all the training days at home. I like to go back and watch old videos of classes that went well to help visualize how I would like this next big class to go.

How do you keep your cool and avoid stress when you walk into an important class or make it to the jump off?

I try to keep a positive attitude and focus on executing the plan made during the course walk. I try to only focus on what is the best plan for my horse and what I am trying to accomplish with them for that day.

How do you deal with a round that did not go exactly as planned?

I try to learn from the good rounds and bad rounds. When something doesn’t go according to plan I do my best to learn from the situation, go home and train what I need to work on and try to make it better for the next time. This sport is so amazing because there is always something to work on. The horses teach you something new everyday.


Tips on staying positive when you have difficult days riding at home, problems with horses, or rough days at shows?

I try to have the mindset that this is a long term sport and results do not happen overnight. It’s natural to have bad days. We are all going to have them and it can be frustrating. I think the most important thing is to have a lot of patience, especially with your horse and to keep working hard. You get out what you put in.

When coaching or giving advice to an amateur rider, what do you focus on most?

I would apply the same concepts I use for myself. I try to focus on getting the horse to work with you. Every horse is different and you have to try to figure out what is best for each individual horse. My goal is to keep them happy, loving their job, and give them the best chance to jump a nice round.

Any tips on effectively walking a course and planning for a good round?

I like to have a very detailed course walk and walk the entire track from start to finish, the lines and the turns. I think it is really important to take the walk seriously and stay focused to make the best plan for you and your horse.


What is it like having a husband who is also a rider?

My husband Alex is a very good rider and my biggest supporter. Although he does not ride at the moment, he has competed internationally for Mexico on Nations Cup teams and World Cup Finals. I believe it is a bonus that we both have a strong passion for the horses and it is something that we can share with each other. He is extremely supportive and understands how dedicated I am and the commitment it takes to do this sport.


What inspires you most about horses, and what makes you excited to ride each day?

What inspires me the most are the horses themselves and the connection we have with them. I love the animals more than anything else in this sport. I enjoy the competition and bringing young horses along but more then anything I love the partnership with the horse.

Have you had a favorite horse? What was special about that experience?

I am so grateful for every single horse I have been able to ride and am fortunate to have had so many special ones. Melisimo (Millie) was a very special horse to me. She changed my life and taught me about the next level of the sport. We were lucky enough to travel to a lot of amazing shows together. When we bought her in Ocala, Florida she was an 11 year old broodmare and had some experience up to 1.30m. She was quite a strong mare and it took a while to make the transition. I fell off in our very first class we did together in Tampa but as time went on we grew to know each other and grew together to build a special partnership. For me she was a horse of a lifetime and I am so grateful. She is now happily retired in Holland with Paul Hendrix and has a few very nice babies that we are very excited about.

Ok so off topic, but we couldn’t help but notice your amazing sparkly jacket! Who makes it?

Equiline!!! They have the most amazing quality clothes.

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