Thursday, March 17, 2016

Progress and the Mental Game

Do you know what separates me from Charlotte Dujardan (aside from iron self-discipline and a shit ton of talent)?
Courage knows
Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours


Let's back up. I talked a barnmate into videoing part of my ride yesterday. Then I watched the video and proceeded to berate myself for not riding like a world champion Grand Prix dressuer. Here, I'll even be brave and share the video:

All I could think while I watched the video was how I didn't look like the rider I'm totally not (Charlotte). I look like a jumper learning to dressage on a distracted and sensitive horse, which is exactly what we are.

I can be mad about that. I can tear myself apart and get all up inside my head about how terrible I am. I can rip my mental game to shreds, eliminate any traces of confidence, and hate myself for not being what I can't possibly be.


I can celebrate the fact that after a week stuck in the indoor, I rode my horse outside without lunging him. We had changes of bend and direction at the trot without flailing. We worked through him being distracted by outside influences and we even cantered without theatrics. I had to ride a little defensively, but we got through it, and next time will be better.

Let's be real: there are always going to be things I can do better. That's the essence of being human. I'm not perfect and I'm not going to be. I can be mad about that or I can embrace it.
If you're an adult ammy with a horse, I know you're a highly motivated, goal-oriented individual. I know that because no one pays your bills for you, no one drives you to the barn, and no one is making you do this. What the hell. It might as well be fun, right? There's no advantage to self-loathing and we all need a little more positive brain space.

The person who suffers most from a negative mental attitude is you and the person who benefits most from a positive mental attitude is you. At the end of the day, we get to ride ponies and pet velvety noses and live the dream we all had as little kids, one way or another.

We can celebrate the progress we make without ignoring the progress that we need to make still. I'm definitely still going to hack away at my position and my ride, but I'm not going to be ashamed of how I rode on this day.

I challenge you guys to the same thing I challenged Lindsey and Alyssa: any time you say something negative about your ride, find something positive to pair with it and find someone to keep you accountable to that. Let's give up on useless self-doubt and remember to enjoy the good things about this crazy hobby of ours.


  1. Possibly my most favoritest post ever!

  2. ha my riding buddy and i needed to read this post last night after we finished our ride thinking "yuuuuppppp maybe we should take up knitting"... seriously tho - being able to turn right after a week spent inside and with no lunging? yea. celebrate that shit!!

  3. I think you guys look awesome, and you have come so, so far. You're actually making me consider taking some dressage lessons. Seriously!

    I don't know about anyone else, but when I sit in front of a computer, I'm watching videos and looking at pics of Pros. That becomes my standard. So when I finally do see video of myself, I get so discouraged. I have to remind myself that they are Pros for a reason. The rule of thumb is that it takes 10,000+ hours of dedicated and intensive practice to become an expert at something. Who is likely to get there faster? A Pro who rides 8-10 horses a day or an Ammy struggling to balance a full time job, a family, life, etc.

  4. I do think it's important to remain positive but... Progress isn't easy. Sometimes self reflection - even if it isn't always positive is necessary for self improvement.

  5. I liked talking about this last night. What a great way to look at riding. I had a feeling you were going to bust out an awesome post.

  6. That tail though ;)

    Also.... YES to this whole post. I know I needed to hear it right now since I have been feeling like a fat bag of potatoes while trying to dressage lately!

  7. A positive mental attitude is also way more beneficial for the horse, too.

  8. This is why I instituted the "3 things rule" to writing up my rides. I forced myself to write 3 things about my ride, and they couldn't all be bad (even if the best I could manage was "got off in one piece"). It's lead to me thinking deeper about our issues, seeing patterns, and starting to troubleshoot my own riding in relation to my horse's issue du jour.

  9. Everything you said in this post - love!

  10. If you were exactly where you wanted to be now, there wouldn't be much point to continuing to ride now would there? You'd get bored really fast. I guarantee, even the best of the best watch themselves and see things they know they could or should do better. You're already better than you were, and that's something to celebrate!

  11. Thank-you for your upbeat posts honoring the rider that you are, and admonishing everyone to respect the hard work and the sacrifices we have to make as amateur/owner adults to just keep plugging away, and not be discouraged and totally demoralized by our perceived lack of progress. When just getting to ride is progress!! Best wishes, Carol in Washington

  12. YES! This! So much this. Something I am constantly reminding others of, and always forgetting for myself. Oops.

  13. You guys look so good together :)


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