It is often said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. If we apply this concept to hour-long rides, that’s a minimum of 10,000 schooling sessions. And despite our best efforts, when it comes to our sport, is mastery even possible?
It is incredibly easy for us to experience burnout. I think that every rider has at one point or another questioned why he or she is pouring their heart and soul into such an emotionally draining endeavor. While we all experience frustrating days and weeks, it is always important to remind ourselves of why we do this, especially when we feel as though we have plateaued or are incapable of improving.
Yes, there will be lessons when we feel like a monkey on stilts or an uncoordinated toddler. But there will also be rides where everything comes together. When this happens, there are truly no words to the express the subsequent feeling of accomplishment. At the end of the day, our motivation isn’t a 10-cent ribbon or a qualifying score. It comes from something much deeper in us – a feeling unique to riders – a distinctive feeling only those fortunate enough to share a partnership with a horse can understand.
We spend too much money, experience too many disappointments, and work too hard to remain in this sport for the wrong reasons. Even the best riders feel the need to occasionally take a break, to step away from the sport and reevaluate why they ride. In fact, sometimes a short break is necessary in order to rekindle your drive. Even a brief respite from some of the pressure can be beneficial. Whether you are a junior, an amateur, or a professional rider, the passion must be there. You should not ride to please others. You must ride for yourself, because at the end of the day, external motivations simply won’t be enough. The burning desire must be there.
Make the effort and take the time to surround yourself with good people who genuinely have your best interest in mind. In the majority of equestrian sports you formally compete as an individual, but in many ways riding is the epitome of a team sport. Being successful and enjoying the journey really does takes a village. An excellent support system is vital. Find a coach you respect and you trust, and make an effort to always keep an open line of communication. Are you getting frustrated schooling flying changes or are you worried about moving up to the next level? Let your coach know. Knowing someone has your back and is there to support you can definitely can make things easier.
Whether you are competing at local show, trying to qualify for finals, or are attempting to become a professional, you will probably have setbacks. While it is easier said than done, recognize when you have done your best and don’t allow circumstances that are beyond your control to upset you. Remember how far you have come. You’ve got this!