It happens to the best of us: we spend the entire day visualizing an awesome ride. Maybe it’s a jump lesson with a coach. We’re excited and feeling confident – only to have the ride pan out exactly the opposite of what we pictured. As we roll our stirrups up after the ride, we’re scratching our head and wondering what went wrong. And then comes the negative self-talk.
Why am I even trying to reach my goal? It seems impossible.
Maybe I’m not the best rider for my horse.
Maybe I’m just not a good enough rider, period.
Sounds familiar, right? If you’ve ever experienced any form of this experience, read on. Here are some best practices to adopt to avoid letting a bad ride ruin your day or week.
Immediately after your ride, give yourself two minutes to feel sad, upset, angry or otherwise negative about it. Emotions are normal – the key is not letting them control your entire reaction. And, of course, never take out your frustrations on your horse.
When you first get off after a ride, the first thing you instinctively want to do is replay the ride and dissect it for ways to improve. After a tough ride, all you want to do is figure out why and how to prevent it from happening again. This is all well and good, but following your two-minute drill, do something to distract yourself. Take the time to give your horse a good bath and wrap his legs. Clean your tack. Let the raw emotions fade rather than succumbing to them and letting negative self-talk take over. Sometimes when you argue with another person, you both need a moment or two to calm down before you can talk rationally. Do yourself the same service.
Find one thing to like
No matter how terrible your ride was – whether you fell off in a heap or you just weren’t on the same page as your horse – try to find just one tiny thing to like about it. It could be a split-second of connection that you felt at the walk as you were warming up. It could be a funny comment your coach made. It could be as trivial as a new pair of breeches that you tried out and loved. Whatever it is, focus on that while you’re upset and try to draw some positive thinking from that. Nothing, however small it may be, is too trivial to celebrate, especially on a tough day.
Find one thing to prioritize correcting
The whole, entire ride may have felt like a complete disaster. But try to separate your emotions and identify one – just one! – thing to work on during your next ride. Maybe it’s a right drift your horse has because you tend to drop your right side. Maybe it’s improving your walk so that the other gaits are more connected. You can’t fix every single thing in one go, so break it down. Don’t know where to start? Ask your coach or a trusted friend what their ideas are. Challenge yourself to find one fundamental thing to correct, and celebrate when you’re able to successfully navigate that element of your next ride.
Keep a tally
Someone once told me that if the good outweighs the bad in any endeavor, at any given moment, then it’s still worth your time and energy. Keep track of your rides. Are you starting to have more bad rides than good? Go back to your last “good” ride and figure out what about it was different than the rides since. Has your horse undergone any stress or changes? Is he feeling 100%? Are you? If you see a pattern, pay attention, but don’t let one bad ride throw off your entire plan. Bad rides happen – and often, they aren’t quite as bad as you think. Riders are natural perfectionists, so be aware of this and don’t be too hard on yourself.