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A.K.A. "Michael's Meanderings"

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Change Your Mindset Around Embarrassment with Horses

mental health psychology tips Dec 09, 2023
horse rider falling off in water on cross country

It is just a plain fact that if you ride horses, you will have bad days.

You will have bad rides.

You will fall off.

This sport is too demanding, too technical, too difficult, and relies on not just your own performance, but the performance and communication with a living, breathing partner who doesn't speak your language and has their own set of priorities, fears, apprehensions, and so much more. This means there will be times it just doesn't work out. 

I actually just had this short conversation with someone on Facebook after they posted about being embarrassed at a clinic because their horse was misbehaving at times.

I told her about the time that I was riding Jack, my ex-5* horse who I was taking 3* at the time, riding in a clinic in Aiken with William Fox-Pitt. He had us warm up by trotting some Beginner Novice fences before we moved into the field with more appropriate fences for our group level.

Now before I go on, it's also important information for you to know that Jack almost never stops or runs out at a jump. The 3 or so years I had him at this point for the story, I think he had stopped maybe 3 times, always because of a big mistake on my part. 

So anyway, moving on, I pick up a trot and head towards the first BN fence. He literally slams on the brakes right at the base and stops. I laugh at him, back him up a few steps, then make him trot and jump it. 

At this point in my career, I've come to terms that horses can be great humblers. And I honestly wasn't too concerned or upset. Mostly just found the stop hilarious after just 2 minutes ago telling William and the crowd of approx. 40+ people that he was an ex-5* horse. 

The point being that you WILL have issues. If you are looking for a sport where you can just succeed as much as possible, horses are not the sport for you. You need to have a sense of humor and a sense of humility in order to survive in this sport. If you don't, you will get too upset and too defeated when things don't go your way, as they inevitably will.

I also had the fantastic experience of falling off, in the water, at the 3*L at the Maryland 5* in front of huge crowds and livestreamed around the world. Want to know what my thoughts were in that moment and on the (very cold, very windy, 50 degree) 20 minute walk all the way back to the barn? "Darnit, I rode that horribly. Man it's really freaking cold. I should've kept my vests as some wind protection." (I had given my vests to my mom who was brought around in the shuttle for the grooms).

What we often forget when we get embarrassed is that anyone watching who also rides, will also have experienced just as many (if not more) issues and embarrassments in their life. Think back to a time you saw someone else have a stop or a fall or some other issue. Did you think much of it? No. You probably barely even remember the details or who it was, let alone that you probably just felt sympathy and empathy because you knew how it felt. 

Try to remember that the next time you have a bad ride. People watching aren't judging you. The select few who might be harshly judging you, well clearly their opinions don't matter if they are that kind of person.

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