All barns need buckets for two things: one for cell phones, another for egos. No matter how far along in your training you are, riding is a sport where there’s always something to improve. If you want to improve, you need to be able to admit that there are some flaws in the way we ride. No matter how pretty our equitation, how perfect our form is when we jump, or how beautiful our piaffe, we work with trainers for a reason. And that’s a good thing.

Being a perfectionist in the horse world is like trying to mix oil and water. On one hand, there are those who think that they ride perfectly. On the other, the ones who criticize themselves too much. They have more “bad” rides than good, refuse to compete because they’re not “there” yet, are riding every day not just because they love it, but because they’re always trying to reach perfection. These are the riders who are afraid to ask questions because they think they should already know the answer.

Not knowing the answer is okay. Not being perfect is normal, even encouraged. I can’t be the only one with a trainer working on helping me break years and years of bad habits. “I want you to look like a sack of potatoes,” she told me. In trying to be perfect, my posture is completely thrown off and I don’t engage my core. I don’t move my legs, not the way a dressage rider should.

What’s the point of trying to be perfect if it’s wrong anyway?

Our perception of perfect needs to shift. We don’t need to try and be what training books talk about. Even our biggest idols, the top FEI riders in our disciplines, don’t get perfect scores (all the time). We ride, not just because we love it, but because it takes practice to get better. Stronger. We pay for training to make sure we, and our horses, are improving with every ride. But guess what? You don’t have to be improving with every ride either.

Riding should be, at its core, something you do because you love it. Because it’s what gets you out of bed in the cold or the rain. If you’re too busy worrying about being perfect you’re not actually enjoying your ride. Trying so hard to be perfect, and failing, is what pushed me away from horseback riding to begin with. I’m not going to let that happen again.