"Why is it that we don't worry about a compass until we're lost in a wilderness of our own making?" - Craig D. Lounsbrough
Do you ever wonder, "Why am I not making progress in my riding?" or "Why am I not having FUN riding anymore?" It's more than likely you have fallen into one or more self-sabotaging habits that are crushing your progress.
Setting Yourself Up For Failure
This is a bold statement, for sure. I see riders "fail" time and again by doing these five things.
Not Riding Enough - Let's just get real right off the top. Most riders fail to achieve their goals because they fail to spend enough time in the saddle. I've had students get frustrated and angry when they have a horse in full time training, but only ride the horse themselves once per week and then a rider who can't afford full time training but rides FIVE days per week and takes a weekly lesson with me beats them in competition. Guess what? It doesn't matter what your horse can do with ME in the saddle...it matters what YOU can get him to do!
Not Having A Plan - This is where the rubber meets the road. You have to not only have a goal, but also a PLAN of ACTION to get there! This is where a trainer can really help you in your journey. You can stumble along and figure things out by trial and error, or you can enlist a knowledgeable guide to help you! Form a specific Plan Of Action and then STICK TO IT!
Expecting Too Much - Rome wasn't built in a day. It's really easy to push too hard and expect wonders every single day. Think about it this way - if you and your horse improved 1% every day, it would only take 100 days to be perfect. That's not how it works. Training is like peeling an onion. There are thousands of layers that need to be peeled back to reveal the true ability and relationship possible between you and your horse. Take your time. Reward often. Go for a trail ride. Remember that riding is supposed to be FUN! Being a drill sergeant will result in a resentful horse that is not happy in his work.
Not Celebrating the Small Achievements - I've made this mistake in my own riding. Sometimes we get so hung up in trying to prepare for a specific goal that we fail to acknowledge the little achievements every day. Did your horse take less warm-up to relax? REJOICE AND PRAISE HIM! Did it take fewer strides to prepare for a transition? CELEBRATE! Did he walk by the spooky corner without a glance? TELL HIM HE'S A ROCK STAR! The big achievements are the result of hundreds of little achievements built day after day. Show up each day for THE HORSE, not your ego.
Measuring Your Success By The Accomplishments Of Others - Your riding journey is just that...YOURS! It doesn't matter what Suzie Down The Street won last weekend at the show. What matters is that you are building trust and knowledge with your horse and enjoying the time spent working with him. Don't allow yourself to be frustrated because you think you should be further along that you are. Show up every day with the attitude that you are going to take one more step on the path to building a better relationship with your horse and what that looks like is entirely unique to YOU.
At the end of the day, remember that we are all VERY fortunate to have the privilege to work with these amazing creatures. They do things for us that are deeply against their nature simply because we ASK. The next time you see your horse, take a moment to stroke his face and look into his deep, soft eyes. Say, "Thank You..."