By Rob Jacobs
One thing is for sure: When riding horses, it goes wrong for us all. Whether you show on a nationally recognized level or if you ride throughout your local trails, occasionally, things will go opposite of your plan as both humans and horses make mistakes. The most common mistake is a form of miscommunication. As equestrians, we work our entire lives to better understand and communicate with our horses. Timing our communication appropriately is more challenging than it seems. There are many factors that go into an effective and efficient performance with our horses.
Because most equestrians spend less time competing their horses than they do riding them at home, there is added pressure during horse shows and it becomes critical for things to go well. There will be rides, classes or even months that just don’t go well. We are constantly learning from those moments, learning what exactly went wrong, how it happened, how it may be prevented in the future and why the error occurred. Equestrian sport is one that secretly invites emotion and ego. We should be careful how much emotion and ego we allow into our journey with our horses, as I believe this impacts our ability to process errors.
When mistakes happen, whether by the horse or rider, they should humble us and give us an opportunity to reflect. There are two characteristics, of many, I believe a person should have. Having good sportsmanship and horsemanship skills are valued but are not always easy to come by. I’m speaking more on sportsmanship in this column; however, I believe the two are aligned. When I think of sportsmanship, I think of a person who is encouraging and kind to themselves and others. I also think of an equestrian that has a positive outlook, is able to smile politely when it goes wrong and thinks of others as they interact.
We participate in a sport that is more unpredictable than most sports. One class we receive the highest score in our career, and the next class we may fall off. Or one day your horse is adventurous on a new trail in your neighborhood, and the next day a blowing leaf causes you to be spun off. If you ride horses, it will go wrong, even on the safest and kindest horse. When it goes wrong, I encourage you to take a moment, slow down your thought process and realize that whatever occurred to you has occurred to thousands of equestrians before you. Knowing that whatever happens to me has happened to so many others before me has allowed me to compartmentalize and process whatever the unfortunate event was.
Some equestrians equate a mistake with their self-worth. I have chosen not to view mistakes this way regardless of the size. In training sessions with a rider, it’s important to challenge them but to also guide that rider with awareness pertaining to how they may process mistakes. In our training program in Seattle, we often talk about what to do when specific things occur. We’ve noticed this has proven beneficial when the mistakes may occur later in the rider’s training program. I’m a believer in keeping things in perspective. We have an opportunity to ride an animal and jump it over obstacles in different environments. I try to keep this in mind and appreciate the small victories. Be kind, be realistic, smile and enjoy the journey.
It’s important to maintain perspective when it goes well or when it doesn’t.
Photo by Julia B Photography