It’s easy to psych yourself out before you even mount your horse. It’s even easier to tell yourself that you’re not worth a clinician’s time, let alone taking private lessons from them. When I sat in on a dressage clinic with Darren Chiacchia, I was expecting lessons on techniques for the beginning dressage rider. What I wasn’t expecting was to leave feeling inspired and reassured about my own riding despite not even sitting in a saddle.
Being a stronger rider — no matter the discipline — begins with treating each ride like the previous ones don’t matter. Treat them as if they never happened, Chiacchia instructed, because what matters is the ride that’s happening now, on this horse, the way they are today. Instead of worrying about anticipating previous behaviors, learn to let those anxieties go and react to what’s happening in this moment. This ride, today, is the only one that matters.
This point was brought home when one of the rider’s horses stumbled mid-canter and the rider, instead of sitting back and staying in her seat, fell forward onto the horse’s neck. If she’d been able to stay back in her seat, had this been during a dressage test, she would’ve still had potential to get a decent score. “One mistake doesn’t make or break a round,” Chiacchia explained. “Just keep going and don’t make a big deal about it.”
The same can be applied to any area of your life, in and out of the saddle. One of the biggest things that holds a rider back from reaching their potential is themselves: the past they bring with them, the anxieties that don’t let them relax, the thinking that they’re not worth someone’s time, let alone good enough to start competing. Every rider starts somewhere and every rider, no matter what level they are, makes mistakes. It’s getting back up, getting back in the saddle, finding that focus and learning to let go that becomes the hardest hurdle for riders to jump over. So reach out to that local big-name trainer about clinics or lessons. Push through that stumble and don’t let it ruin your ride.