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Stuck on Perfection?

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  • Stuck on Perfection?

    I've been putting way too much pressure on myself to be the perfect rider I want to be, although I know there is no such thing! I am young, but I just get so frustrated with myself over faults. My hands aren't steady enough, my upper body isn't straight enough, trust me, I could go on. I work very hard to fix my faults, but not every thing is such an easy fix. Lately, something changed with me and the pony that I have been riding has been lame rein the past couple times I have ridden her. She's very sensitive, but I don't know what changed.

    I really want to remember what it feels like to be happy with myself after a ride again. I need to put things into perspective! Any advice would appreciated!!

  • #2
    I feel frustrated all the time. Horses and riding are a lifelong education - every time you "think" you master something, you realize there is a whole other level of sophistication and understanding to it that you open your eyes to and then wish to learn. I am lucky enough to ride around a lot of experienced people and have a clear visual of what things SHOULD look like, and as a student have very high standards to be met, so feeling frustrated is commonplace for me. But I tell myself that the people instructing me and pointing out my flaws and helping me fix them are people that have been doing this 2 to 3 times longer in their lives than I have - and I've been going at it a while! So I keep telling myself there are plenty of years left to get as good as I want to be and to keep working at it.


    • #3
      Start talking to yourself whilst riding.


      Give yourself kudos, encouragement, and start an inner (or outer) dialogue, being your own instructor. Use positive words and phrases.

      I don't have the opportunity to take many lessons so I've found that I can use self-talk and give myself my own lessons, and encouragement, on a daily basis. If I get into this "zone," I can push myself and feel myself improving.

      If you have to talk out loud, go ahead (assuming you don't have an audience other than yourself )

      I know this sounds terribly simple, but it has worked for me. Lately, I have been out of shape and not feeling effective. So I've pulled out the self-talk and pushed myself forward, giving myself positive feedback whenever I can.

      Call me crazy,


      • #4
        Ride bareback in the snow, borrow somebody's schoolmaster upper level horse and feel all those "buttons". Organize a gymkhana at your barn. Somebody has forgotten it's supposed to ne FUN.
        Click here before you buy.


        • #5
          I have been guilty of this in the past. I am a very serious rider - I want to be the best I can and I happily admit I would not ride at all if I was not able to compete.

          The best thing I have found is firstly to write down you goals - break them down by month and then for the year. They have to be achievable and realistic. Firstly this puts onto paper your thoughts and secondly it means you can look back and know you are achieving things.

          Its too easy to be in a spiral of doom and gloom and forget all the milestones you have reached along the way. Its also too easy to hit a goal and then instantly start thinking about the next one which is harder with no feelings of pleasure or having enjoyed the journey. When you hit a goal maybe write some words of reflection - what went well, what you would do differently and how you felt about it all.

          Are you honestly maximising your performance? Are there weaknesses and gaps in your knowledge that can be filled? Work on your knowledge weaknesses. This can be done through video, books and generally looking things up and asking. This will also help you improve your stable management. Its all very well moaning about your 'issues' but you need to be proactive in getting a rounded education.

          I have relaxed about it all over the years and actually along with the relaxing I have found my results have improved. I hit every single goal last year and though bits were not as I was hoping and looking at my jumping position makes me want to weep, I have enjoyed the journey.

          Some books which made a massive difference to me were Bounce by Matthew Syed, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and the Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick. They are on a similar theme but I enjoyed understanding the mentality and the 'luck' that a lot of top people have had. It made me stop beating myself up that I work full time and cannot ride like WFP.

          WFP had a mother who went round Burghley and Badminton, who was bought a horse in Steadfast he did not want but taught him more than he could have hoped, had a top dressage trainer in the old school tradition who lived down the road and who inherited a farm from an uncle who had no other heirs. That is an awful lot of lucky coincidences which allowed him to be the rider he is now. That is not to say you cannot make your own luck but it means for the person who does not have these amazing circumstances you have to work a little bit harder.

          The second aspect the books pick up on is practise. Once I understood that I was never going to get the required practice to make it to the top, it helped me realise that I can maximise opportunity as much as possible but having one horse and jumping once a week would mean I was not going to be a polished and mistake free as I would want.

          Which takes me to my final point - we all have options. I could walk away from my comfortable job, my house, my boyfriend and social life to try and get better in eventing but I actually have a really lovely life and so with that I have to accept the juggling act of life and that some things are not going to be as good as I want with it.

          Sorry if this has turned into an essay but its a subject I have done a lot of thinking about over the last few years!
          The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.


          • #6
            It's easy to get sucked into being too self-critical.

            Sometimes it's helpful to back off "training" and ride bareback or go for long trail rides and explore new places . . . or try something completely different with your horse.

            Have you tried riding with just a string around your horse's neck (no bridle?), ridden a gaited horse? tried ground driving?

            I rode a friend's fox trotter over the summer and it was a complete blast. I'd never felt that kind of smooth gait before. She rode my TB and couldn't believe how bouncy he was.

            When I was younger I frequently "traded" horses with friends for a ride. Sometimes it's a great break in routine to ride something completely different.

            I also like going for long, meandering trail rides where I can ride on a loose rein and just decompress.

            Remember that success in riding is a self imposed goal. You must be competent to be safe, but you don't have to be perfect all the time.

            Go have some fun!
            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


            • #7
              Let it go. Go for a trail ride. There IS no perfection. EVER. Life is learning. Get out of the sandbox, give you and pony a break, take a deep breath and remember WHY you do it -- it's supposed to be fun and enriching.
              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
              We Are Flying Solo


              • #8
                Progress not Perfection ```` that tht works for some ~

                Progress rather than Perfection ~ keeping that idea works for some ~

                Remember ~ " as long as you're doing your best there can be no question of failure ..."

                Enjoy your ride !
                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks guys!! I really do love riding in all ways, and I'm not in it just to compete, but winter is a bummer here because we don't have any where to really go on a trail. Going round and round in circles gets old fast!


                  • #10
                    I hear you on the circles thing -- could be worse! I'm rehabbing a ligament injury and we are stuck in the indoor...walking...
                    But I love interacting with my horse and coming up with ways to entertain us - riding bareback, all in 2 point, steering with just seat, no legs, no reins, etc.
                    This is temporary. Winter blues. Take a deep breath and enjoy what you have, however modest it is. It'll get better!
                    The big man -- my lost prince

                    The little brother, now my main man


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TakeAChanceinVA View Post
                      I But I tell myself that the people instructing me and pointing out my flaws and helping me fix them are people that have been doing this 2 to 3 times longer in their lives than I have - and I've been going at it a while! .
                      Ha! That only works until you are taking lessons from peope younger than you.

                      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                      • #12
                        Quit trying to be perfect and take some time to ride for fun...I think you will make more mistakes when you are working too hard to achieve something. Relax and ride for the fun of it. You may be creating rein lameness by drilling too hard and making yourself and your horse suffer too much...I myself have come full circle in over 20 years of horse ownership and have decided that from now on I am going to please myself and my horse first...not a trainer, not a judge, nobody. I just had a major surgery after three years of not riding very much because I was not feeling up to par for it and spent a bunch of time before that working hard at riding to win but not having fun. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I plan on this being a new year with skills learned applied but during fun time, not "drill and suffer" time! If I feel like showing I will, and if I don't I will spend my horse time doing something fun! Life is just too short to be miserable!
                        America dialed 911. Donald Trump answered the phone.

                        Stop pumping money into colleges and start getting ready to earn money in the projected tradesman shortage of 2024. Make Trades Great Again!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Nike View Post
                          Thanks guys!! I really do love riding in all ways, and I'm not in it just to compete, but winter is a bummer here because we don't have any where to really go on a trail. Going round and round in circles gets old fast!
                          This too could be why your horse is picking up a rein lameness. If you can't trailer out and go somewhere, do something different...some suggestions have already been mentioned above. Maybe a little trail course would be the thing to switch it up a bit. But do something before you become too sour and so does your horse!
                          America dialed 911. Donald Trump answered the phone.

                          Stop pumping money into colleges and start getting ready to earn money in the projected tradesman shortage of 2024. Make Trades Great Again!


                          • #14
                            The most recent blog by Lauren Sprieser here on the Chronicle website is a good reminder that even riders at the top levels of the sport share your struggles:


                            I know that personally I'm a bit of an impatient perfectionist, so I have to fight hard to keep perspective and not get frustrated. I love the day to day process of riding, and that's what has kept me going even when i feel like I can't do anything right (which is often!).


                            • #15
                              do fun things! play bareback with a halter and leadrope cantering with your arms out to the side. Play broomball, swap ponies with friends, have group gymnastic days where you all set grids for each other and help and encourage each other. Take videos of each other, silly videos on your cell phones. I'm stuck in the indoor right now too, and all of these things help. so what if we're not progressing during the deep freeze part of winter. We're not regressing by goofing off, but we might if we both get sour and bored.


                              • #16
                                This is a very easy trap to fall into. Here's what helps me:

                                1) keep a diary! Each time you ride or take a lesson, write down what happened. Keep track of things you did well in addition to things that you had trouble with. You will be amazed by how easy it is to forget the good stuff when you are struggling with a new concept. It happens to me all the time.

                                2) Take videos periodically so you can see and review what you are doing. Progress in riding is like progress when it comes to weight loss. If you keep getting on the scale every day you will see fluctuations (most likely) that may drive you nuts! However, over several weeks or a few months, you will see big changes. Video will have you track your progress more easily.