Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Ok, so this blog is being written for all of those hard-working trainers, riders who compete on a budget, or anyone who is struggling with their horsey-life at the moment. I have seen this a lot lately in my travels to barns and shows and competitions. People are just down on themselves. And therefore, the horse takes this on.
But let's put the horse aside for one second.
And have a real discussion about why we do this.
This lovely thing called riding.
Why are you out there practicing after school or on weekends?
Why are you signing up for that clinic or extra private lesson?
We love what we do. Maybe you are an ultra-competitive person or a type-A personality.
I am telling you now, the best gift you will ever give yourself is: PERMISSION TO FAIL.
Giving yourself permission to fail is a huge part of learning and becoming a better rider. Maybe you have heard this before or maybe for the first time. Giving yourself permission to fail, means that you must also give your horse permission.
In doing this- you will open up doors and opportunities for learning and improving more than ever before.
Don't kick yourself especially right before riding.
Make sure that before every ride, you are coming at it with a healthy mental and emotional perspective. Get in the right frame of mind.
There are many ways you can do this. One is a simple breathing exercise. Another is an imaginative exercise. You can ask me about these next time I see you. But most importantly, you want to give you and your partner the best chance from the very beginning.
Having a negative outlook will only:
-Strip you of confidence
-Give your horse mixed messages
-Set yourself up for failure and then make that failure a reality
-Annoy your riding partner, trainer and anyone else you are working with to make your dreams a reality
-Have negative affects on your body (your body is actually wired to listen to your mind)
-And can be a bad habit for your riding routine.
Giving yourself permission to not be perfect can also help with stress when showing or competing. Treating each ride the same, and knowing that you will only build upon what you know is key.
For instance, don't place such high importance on one class. This is ONE CLASS in your life of a million classes or rides or races or competitions. You will have more and you will do better. Instead, place importance on the consistency of the show in general or the race in general or whatever it is you are doing. Big picture stuff.
I'm not saying this so that you don't try. I'm not saying this so you don't listen to your trainer or bodyworker or farrier. FOR GOODNESS SAKES LISTEN TO ALL OF THEM!
I am saying this for your mental game. Mental wellness. And above all, your horses.
A mental game when riding, competing and trying to get better is very important. This includes emotional togetherness, alertness to what you need to work on and readiness to do better.
But no one ever got better for kicking themselves.
The "vibe" in your barn should be positive. NO MATTER WHAT. There is always something to be learned. But getting negative about it will affect your horse and everything you are working towards.
Here are some basic tips to keeping things light and positive and allowing yourself to fail.
Ten Tips For A Better Ride
1- Step back and ask yourself "why am I doing this?" You should be able to answer this question easily.
2- Give your horse a chance at success by doing the simple tasks first. Do three things in your ride that you know your horse will be successful at before you start the hard work. This sets the mood and the tone for the rest of your ride.
3- Take what your trainer says to head not to heart. This means that you are paying them for advice. Take it in stride and take a mental note. Don't take it personally and never let your emotions get in the way of hearing what they are saying.
4- When you ask for advice from your bodyworker, vet or farrier (the external helpers in your horse life) TAKE IT! If you are asking these questions it means you want help and are seeking it out. Do yourself a favor and listen.
5- Use the 5-5-5-5 rule... Will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 weeks? 5 months? 5 years? basically if it isn't urgent, don't sweat it. Come up with a plan for change.
6- Plans take time. If you have a goal in a few months, realize that your talent and your horses ability might not get to where you want in that time frame. Time frames are a funny thing when you are dealing with a 1000 pound animal, jumps, terrain and all sorts of variables. Plans take time.
7- Notice the little things that work. Sometimes those little things are the biggest things. Does your horse do better with a trail ride before your lesson? Do they have certain acupressure points that help them "let down"? Are you hangry and simply need to eat!? haha- no but in all seriousness take note of what IS WORKING.
8- Get some perspective. When all is said and done, this is horseback riding. You aren't fighting in a war, and you aren't writing a bill into law- you are trying to have some fun on an animal. No really. Even if you are going to the Olympics- have perspective.
9- Give yourself a high-five. If no one else is there to watch you ride, and you are in this pretty much alone, just give yourself a big high-five when your ride is done. You know what? Self encouragement is important.
10- End every lesson with a "thank you" to your horse. They might not have wanted to wake up at 7am and drill over a course that day. Or have to put up with your strong right arm, or your constant need to dwell on the negative. They put up with us. Even the best riders in the world realize this!
Give It Some Intention And See What Happens
Being an equine bodyworker makes me pause and think about all the things these horses have to go through. I get down on myself for sure! Some sessions go much better than others. Sometimes the horse can only be receptive to so much. Maybe the owner is not on the same page as me or the horse. But to keep things real, I try and tell myself that what I am doing is for the GOOD OF THE HORSE.
No matter what happens, my intention is good. It is healing. INTENTION IS EVERYTHING IN LIFE.
Get ahold of your emotions and put them in check.
Don't kick yourself for trying or failing.
Failure is a huge part of success.
It's hard to see it when you are in it. But my best moments were in failure. And yours are too.
Learn from these and stop kicking yourself.
YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN!