View Full Version : Consistency in riding - how to get out of a slump?

Hunter Mom
Apr. 9, 2009, 09:51 PM
How do you get consistent with your riding? I'm in a slump right now, and am getting really frustrated with myself.

to give you a little background, I am a 40-ish rerider, who is never going to do the "big shows." I am a mom, work full time and am on the curvy side. I started riding again in the spring of 07, did a couple of little shows that fall, bought a delightful mare who is a saint of a teacher that fall as well, and we do mainly local shows. We hit a few close-by rated shows, but stay at the 2'6" divisions. While we school up to 3' at home, she doesn't have the scope to get around a 3' course at a show.

Here is what I'm frustrated with - when we ride well, we win at the locals and get a ribbon at the bigger shows. However, lately I've been riding like poo-poo. I took an icky fall at the last show (rated) of the year last fall, and have worked on my confidence all winter. At our first local show of the year, we had a good day on Saturday. Blue ribbon good. VERY nice compliments from the judge good. Last weekend, I went to a local circuit show and you'd have thought I had ridden a week in my life. I flopped all over, caught my girl in her mouth, spaced out on course, etc. such is my life.

I love my horse. I love to ride. My 7 year old daughter rides as well, so it is a good thing for both of us. However, it gets hard when you get frustrated. I'm not going to get to show as much this year, so want to make the most of what I do get to do. How do you get back into your a game?:confused:

Apr. 9, 2009, 10:07 PM
I hear you. If you can't win at the game the way you are playing it now, change up the rules.

Here are my ideas:

Learn to change a bad riding day. This is really what separates the pros from the rest of us. This means that a whole show, division, even a whole class isn't determined by a bad fence or whatever.

Learn to change a bad riding day by practicing that at home. Go outside. Ride bareback. School over poles. Plan to school over poles and then, instead, work on transitions, lateral work...whatever "rough edge" your diamond of a mare presents for polishing that day. It's really important to stay flexible.

Go to more dinky shows and show less each time. You might need more experiences in order to make them "ordinary."

These all work for me. Lots of us can ride the crest of a good streak... so long as all the planets stay aligned and it continues! Sometimes I'm most proud of myself when I can turn around a bad streak.

Best of luck to you!

Apr. 9, 2009, 10:12 PM
Totally agree with mvp. Just keep riding, and one day it all comes together again. The worst thing you can do is just stop riding though, it'll only get worst and go downhill from there.

If you find its a psychological issue more than anything else, I highly suggest you read The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin- Its a really great book all on the mental learning processes and mentality needed in order to compete successfully, from his point of view as a child world class chess champion and world class martial artist.

And of course don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone has off days. After 2 years I thought I finally learned how to ride my horse, and got my butt bucked off again today! Haha

Apr. 9, 2009, 10:21 PM
If it's about showing, make sure you have the right prep FOR YOU before you show. I just learned this last month. I would drive five hours to the show the night before, get in late, not sleep well, then get up super early and show. Bad plan for me! I have an extremely stressful job and realized I need more time to transition from work to horses.

Next show, I'm taking a day of vacation before I show so I can change gears. Perhaps your mind was somewhere else?

And yes, keep riding! We all go through phases. Sometimes we're awesome, sometimes not so much. :-)

Hunter Mom
Apr. 10, 2009, 08:32 AM
I won't quit riding, no worries there. My job is very stressful, especially this time of year. I know that impacts my whole riding. This has also been a very sucky week. Cat had an abscess on his eyelid, DD needs a ton of dental work, lots going on at work, American Idol didn't get recorded :) Anyhow, I know it is mental. It is just frustrating.

Last night, I had to ride later than usual, and ended up riding with a kid who is just starting over cross rails, so I got to do a little more work on balance (my bugaboo). Mare was good, and that helps.

Apr. 10, 2009, 09:35 AM
The Art of Learning sounds interesting. I know from teaching (languages, not riding)and from my own experience studying that learning anything is not a straight upward curve. You drop down, get worse for a little bit, and have bad days when things don't work right. But keep trying, troubleshooting, and when you start improving again, you will come back better than ever.

Apr. 10, 2009, 12:12 PM
Everyone goes through those phases. It's frustrating. When I am having one of those days, I try to change up my routine a bit and work on some basic stuff. Or if I am feeling really frustrated, I spend the day pampering my mare. It makes me remember why I do this :) And show nerves are the worst but mvp is right....you have to show and get experience to get rid of those :)

Apr. 10, 2009, 08:12 PM
I too understand how you feel. There are times when things really seem to click and you feel like a rock star :cool: and then there are times where nothing seems to click. :no:

I also seem to have trouble switching gears when I ride after work or when I'm stressed out; however, I've found that by the time I'm done riding, I'm no longer thinking about anything else and I'm relaxed. :winkgrin:

Our trainer says you learn the most when things don't click.

Like mvp suggested, I too am trying to learn how to change a "bad riding day" - or more specifically for me, "bad riding round", especially if I'm jumping poorly during my lesson.

I apologize if I missed it but did you say how many days a week you ride? I find the more I ride, the better I am overall. It's hard though to maintain that consistency between family and work commitments.

God Bless the "saint" horses. I have one too. :lol:

Keep up the good work.


Apr. 10, 2009, 08:41 PM
Jane Savoie recently wrote a super blog titled Here's How You can Have a Great Ride Every Day. I know she's a dressage coach, but there's a lot in there that is amazing advice for all kinds of riders - and for life.
I hope you find it helpful!

Apr. 10, 2009, 09:01 PM
Nice blog!

Every riding day has negatives...and yet many positives. If you look back at where you started way back when, it's probably amazing how much more you know and can do.

I know I could NOT ride my Andalusian effectively for a year or two when I was getting a divorce...I'd get on her for a "relaxing" ride and she'd say, "WHOA, WHAT'S WROOOONG??!!" I couldn't relax at all and she knew it. So I gave myself the grace of time, beat myself up about not being able to ride my horse...but eventually it got much better, especially when I stepped outside the dressage arena box and used the principles when trail riding, chasing cows or just getting on in a sundress and moseying around.

Cut yourself some slack, think of cross-training ideas, if you're stressed, just give you and your lovely horse a break by doing something mindless and relaxing that you know you can do...then hang it up for the day.

Remember, horses respond more to lightness than to rules. If you are lighthearted and easy on yourself...well, try it!

Apr. 10, 2009, 09:57 PM
I'm a pushing-50 re-rider who didn't ride for 29 years, and got myself a way better horse than I deserve. I've had him for a year and a half now, and I still basically ride like crap. The best day I've had on him was bareback, after a really tiring lesson, when I really meant to just longe him, but my longe was locked up in the spare locker and I'd forgot the key, and I didn't want to just to do nothing with him...and basically I was so pooped I couldn't be tense. I was just enough of a rag doll and zoned out that we could click in a mellow way. (He tends to like to get too strong, which makes me stiff)...but at any rate I emphatically second those who are saying sometimes the best stuff happens when you least expect it, when you change a plan, etc. It seems to be my experience that the HARDEST way to find success is when you lay out a game plan that specifies, "I MUST do 10 minutes of X, 10 minutes of Y, 10 of Z, and 15 of A, B, and C," blahblahblah usually followed by something like "everyday" or "4 times a week." I think your inner child just says, "Yeah? We'll see about that." I think a slump may be just about synonymous with burn-out, and a sign that you're pushing too hard to begin with. I know my worst days tend to come when I'm feeling like, "WHY haven't I fixed this already?"

Hunter Mom
Apr. 11, 2009, 02:45 PM
Thanks for all the moral support. You guys are wonderful :)

It has been an awful week in my "real" life, which just compounded the riding. Most of the stress is going away now, thankfully. I rode this morning, and came in on the second half of a dressage lesson before my jumping lesson. We had a good day. I felt tighter in the leg and she was pretty relaxed for her.

Apr. 11, 2009, 03:54 PM
If you feel it is stress from the rest of your life affecting your riding, try to come up with a way to separate the riding from the rest of your life.

Sometimes I do a 10 minute Yoga routine before heading out to the barn. Or sing along with a favorite CD on the way home from work, really loud and off key to burn off some emotion. Or take the dogs for a short walk and try to get "in the moment" thinking about the sights and sounds where I'm at instead of thinking about the crappy day at work or whatever life stress I have.

If I have a day when I really am having trouble getting the negativity out of my head sometimes I just don't ride that day. Sometimes I trick myself and say I'm just going to go to the barn to brush off my horse and give him treats. By not stressing about whether I "should" ride, or whether I'll have a good ride, when I'm done grooming and visiting I usually am feeling more relaxed and just tack up and ride.

Also, maybe lighten up on your riding goals and do a few trail rides and goof off a bit. I'm a goal oriented and driven person, and that helps at work and usually helps with the riding but sometimes I get hung up on the goals and don't enjoy the individual rides. It is what I do for fun afterall.