Trust Yourself To Train Your Horse

Real Life Rider Series

A recent message touched a nerve with me and I thought it would be a great subject to share.

My biggest hurdle is trusting myself that I can do it. I trust my horse but not myself.”

As I read this a quote from my book came instantly to mind …

 “Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think” – Benjamin Disraeli

It’s not easy to fully understand the specific issues from just one sentence so I hope my advice hit the spot.  In any event, it’s a good read for anyone not feeling particularly awesome about their riding just now.

iMPOSTER sYNDROMEPerhaps you feel like you’re a fraud, an imposter, or simply not good enough?

The dressage fraternity can do that to you. I was surprised to learn that the vast majority of successful people feel like impostors from time to time; it’s actually a positive sign.  Feelings of faking it are usually associated with intelligence, diligence and, paradoxically, competence.  Slackers, blusterers and the genuinely incompetent tend not to stress about feeling like fakers.

Try to re-frame your thinking:

Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean that you are failing.

Every success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there. Good things take time. Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but sometime. Roll with it, instead of resisting it.  This struggle will help you grow.

Everything in life is temporary.

When it rains, it stops; when you hurt, you heal; after darkness there is light (you are reminded of this every morning). Nothing lasts forever. So if things are good right now, that’s great, have fun and enjoy it because it won’t last forever. Just because you are not finding something easy at the moment, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh; just because something is not clicking into place, doesn’t mean you can’t smile.

Worrying and complaining changes nothing.

Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. When I first read this it really hit the spot. Gosh, did I feel sorry for myself, bringing everyone around me down bemoaning my fate; spending today complaining about yesterday simply made today worse. So I decided to take action instead. It’s always better to make an attempt to do something and fail than not to attempt anything at all.

Every little struggle is a step forward.

Patience has nothing to do with waiting; patience is about keeping a good attitude while plugging away at your dreams. I decided that if I’m going to try, I will put in the time and go all the way otherwise, what is the point in starting, really? This could mean getting out of my comfort zone for a while; it could mean going it alone for a while. It was all a test of my determination, of how much I really wanted it. Guess what? The struggle is not found on the path, it IS the path.

The best thing I can do is to keep going.

Don’t be afraid to get back up and to try again. If you are in the place where right now it seems like you are not good enough, like you are stuck, you are not. When I felt like quitting, I reminded myself that sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right. You only have one life, this is it. Do what makes you happy and be with those people (or horses) that make you smile, most often. Feel the privilege that riding gives you.


Step back and take a look in.

It really isn’t possible to make all the changes you need to make in one go and if you try to, nothing will improve and your horse really won’t appreciate it and neither will you. Take a deep breath, step back, prioritise and try not to do too much too soon.

Do what you do well.

I often make things too hard for myself, worse still I champion all the hard work. ‘If it’s important, you will find a way’, ‘if you’re willing to pay the price, anything can be yours’ in an attempt to motivate riders to achieve their dreams. But it occurred to me that sometimes I take too long to quit! I struggle too much; continue doing things that I don’t enjoy as if working hard is what it’s all about. The trouble with that way of thinking is that it implies that if you haven’t yet got what you want that a) you don’t want it bad enough or b) you are unwilling to pay the price. For a tiny minority, this may be true. I say may be true. There may be some people out there who are simply too lazy, too dispassionate, too uninspired to take action to get what they want, but I think that they are the rare few. Many just don’t have sufficient clarity about what they want.

Learning to TRUST Yourself

When I have these types of issues and ‘everything’ appears to be going wrong, I try not to blame myself.  I will go back to the very beginning of my journey and ask myself the question ‘why am I doing this?’.

The reality is that I already work too hard, too long, putting forward too much effort and it was the very effort that I put into things that was costing me results. You see, excessive effort makes things too tense and too serious and eventually it all goes a little sour.  That’s not to say that effort or work is a bad thing, it is excessive effort and work that is, I believe, a perfect recipe for finding unhappiness. After asking myself ‘why am I doing this?’ I went back to doing what was well within my capabilities and did that for a while; stopped pushing myself; re-established the basics; stepped back and took a little time out. I needed it; we all do from time to time.

I can do this.  I just have to find my own pace.  Dressage is very much a thinking sport. Your training success will come from 80% thinking through the whole process and planning with the last 20% actually doing. Be positive in your thoughts, disregard all those negative thoughts that cloud your judgement and hold you back from achieving your goals. The way in which you think will determine your destination and every road en-route. Make it a positive experience for yourself.Trust yourself

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


4 Responses

  1. Great thoughts to be followed in more than just the arena! As a school teacher I know I will use some of these as I work with my students who struggle with mathematics. Thanks for your insights.

  2. What a great article, after a particularly bad comp with 2 horses and 6 tests over a 3 day comp, I beat myself up as I’ve competed for 25 years and my scores were terrible, I realised something needed to change and I’ve changed my schooling to get both more forward, it’s not always perfect but I can feel glimpses of how it should feel.
    If I hadn’t had that crappy weekend I wouldn’t have the light bulb moment that changed everything!

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