5 Tips for a Positive Ride
Riding is a sport that takes both physical and mental strength. As athletes we need to take care of our bodies by fueling ourselves with proper nutrition and exercising regularly. Having the right mental state is just as important because our horses reflect upon our emotions, and negative thoughts can be so damaging off and on a horse. Have you ever felt stuck in your head while riding? Here are some tips many professionals in the hunter/jumper industry have taught me that have personally helped me become more effective and positive in my riding.
1. Stay present in each ride: Don’t worry about the future or dwell on the past.
This is easier said than done. As riders, many of us are perfectionists and have big goals such as making it to a big equitation final, moving up in the jumper ring, or competing in hunter derbies. Making goals is great because it gives us purpose and a drive to do better and make our dreams a reality. However, focusing too much on future goals can be counter-productive. It can be very distracting in each lesson or round at a show that it is hard to focus on the task at hand. The best way to reach your goals is to focus on what is happening right now. The Fit Equestrian has a Free Goal Setting Guide that can help you set effective goals and work towards them in a productive way. Truthfully, the present moment is all that can be controlled. Worrying too much about goals can cause anxiety, high expectations, and self doubt which is so damaging in this sport. Before every ride, reflect on what you and your horse have been working on and try to improve every time you ride. My trainer always asks me, “What are you feeling?” I ask myself this multiple times in the ring to make sure that I am focused on what I need to do to get the task at hand done. Sometimes, what we plan to accomplish in a lesson does not happen. When this occurs it is crucial to learn from mistakes and not dwell on them. Putting all the focus on the negative can cause self doubt and worry. We are not perfect, in fact, there is no such thing as a perfect round. Mistakes are what help as grow and even top riders make mistakes. One of the trainers I work with makes me tell her “My sandwich” after each lesson. This is pointing out something you did well, something that needs to be improved, and something you did well again to end on a positive note. After this, move on and focus on the next task. Staying present is what brings most riders success. The whole point is to enjoy the ride which is hard to do when we are worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
2. Do not compare yourself to others.
In this sport and in life there is always going to be someone who has more than you. Whether it’s horses, fancy tack or experience there is always something to compare yourself to. When we get stuck in this comparison trap negative thoughts are bound to occur. Riding is not always about competing and winning. Don’t get stuck trying to live another person’s life or competing to be more than them. Each and every rider’s journey is their own. Not one person got to their goals the exact same way. It does not matter if a person has more than you and is more experienced than you because the truth is, anything is possible. Every rider has their weaknesses, even the riders you idolize. Next time you start comparing yourself to other riders. Think of five things you are thankful for, and how blessed you are to be doing such an amazing sport.
3. Surround yourself with positive riders.
Negative people are never fun to be around and can make you a negative person as well. Have you ever heard, “You are who you associate with?” this is actually very true. In this sport, surrounding yourself with friends and trainers who are uplifting and believe in your abilities is crucial for you and your horse’s success. Confidence is huge in this sport and riders who are confident and positive are the ones you want to surround yourself with. It is very hard to be confident when you hear negative thoughts, stories and actions from other riders. For your own happiness and positive thoughts it is important to separate yourself from these situations and find people who bring you happiness.
4. Learn to grow thicker skin.
This sport is not easy and things happen all the time like a bad round at a show, a horse getting hurt, or as little as critical advice from a trainer. It’s always easier to give up and think that it will never get better, but the truth is it will. All the bad things in this sport results in us becoming stronger riders in the end. When a trainer seems tough it is because they believe in you and know what you are capable of. It is the only way of growth in this sport. When you have a bad round focus on how you could make it better without obsessing over the mistakes. When you or your horse are injured focus on the success you have had and enjoy the time off grooming and relaxing with your horse. Trust that it will get better. Hard situations in riding seem tough to get through, but somehow you get through them and become a stronger and better rider in the end.
5. Focus on the passion.
Have you ever reflected on how amazing horses are? They jump for us, they race for us, they do tricks for us. The list can go on and on. Have you ever asked yourself why you do this sport? Probably not because the answer is we love horses. We love the partnership of a rider and a horse. We love taking care of them and teaching them as they teach us. We can get so focused on winning and competing, but really matters is the big picture and the journey to what helped our dreams as riders to come true. Stay passionate.
Having a positive mind while riding is something I have struggled with, but with the help of so many professional trainers and riders I have changed my perspective on myself as an individual and rider, I still get hard on myself and have negative thoughts on my riding as does everyone, but with these tips I now have the tools to be a positive and effective rider.
TFE Ambassador Sheridan O'Shaughnessy
Junior Rider, Zone 10, USA