To have experienced disappointment in a ride is both a natural element of equestrian commitment, as well as, an indication that the rider had an expectation or goal for that ride. Goals and objectives are an important facet of the equestrian sport; realistic and achievable expectations are tightly woven into our success as riders.
Tips for keeping disappointment in perspective while focusing on positive attributes of riding and future successes of your horse/rider team, whether in a free ride, a lesson/clinic, or a competitive ride.
- Consider your ability to perform in the ride: stress, fatigue, focus, weather, arena traffic.
- Consider your horse’s ability to respond to your aids: clear contact and communication, distraction, anxiety, tightness, soundness.
- Consider these factors not as excuses, but as alerts to work through in any given ride.
- “Critique your ride with a positive frame.
- Not: I didn’t do “this” well.
- Instead: I’d like to do “this” better.
- “Focus! While in the saddle, focus on what you as rider should be doing and what you as partner want your horse to do.
- “Feel! If you have uncertainty about how what you are working on should feel or look, ask a trainer, a clinician, or a trusted fellow rider for assistance.
- “Visualize! If you can see it, you can ride it. Did you ever notice how dressage riders – just before a competitive ride – are using their finger to draw their test in the air, while on deck for their ride? That rider is visualizing their test movements.
- “Emulate! Most riders have a gifted rider or talented trainer they admire and whom they’d like to emulate. Pick one! Or pick a movement that rider excels at and work to perfect your own version of that movement. You might be amazed to see how your own performance improves.
- “Small changes matter! Aha moments occur not just during training sessions, but whenever you are riding your horse. If you have a sudden “I get it” moment even during a competition, use that to your advantage. It can be as simple as the way you hug your horse with your legs or pat your horse after a correction. Apply small changes for big successes immediately. There will be another ride, another show test. Stay in the moment today and enjoy each riding success – whether an entire ride or one tiny connection between you and your horse.
- “SMILE! Finally, on a personal note, I try always to ride my show tests with a smile. Smiling helps me to enjoy the ride and maintain a sense of humor even if that competitive ride isn’t going so well. A smile transcends difficulty or disappointment. A smile conveys “I did this today; I’ll do this even better tomorrow!”
Brenda Peters-Beare is a Bronze and Silver medalist and trainer at Shiloh West. She has owned and operated Beare Equestrian Services and Training (BEST) since 1993.