I remember getting frustrated so many times with my riding career as I became more focused, and, okay - a little obsessed - with my results. I wanted to prove to myself (and maybe a few others) that I was a good rider, and I needed those baby blues as evidence. I was trapped in a vicious cycle - the more frustrated I got, the more my results went downhill. I remember how unhappy I felt at the time, even asking myself, 'Why do I do this?' after a bad round. It’s tough to reconcile feeling so upset about a sport that we love, and pay a whole lot of money to do. I know I’m not the only one to have felt less than great at the end of a show, or after a series of lessons where nothing seems to go right. So if you see a little bit of yourself in this story, fear not: there’s hope yet.
It might sound silly, but if it works, who cares? I recently read the book Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat (which I highly recommend by the way). One way the book highlighted to channel your inner ‘happy’ again is to remind yourself of what makes you love riding, horses, and everything in between in the first place. It may not seem very powerful, but if you take 10 minutes to write down all the things that make you happy, you might notice a trend. You might be surprised to find that many of the things on your good ol’ ‘happy list’ are day-to-day things, like your horse nickering to you when you arrive at the barn, a trail ride on a beautiful day, the smell of good hay, or the sound of your horses eating contentedly. Make your own happy list to remind yourself that your passion for horses doesn’t have to be complicated or depend on your results.
2. Remember your ‘why’
When things are going well it’s easy to be happy. Nailing every distance, leaving rails untouched, and walking home with more ribbons that your trunk can hold typically infuses a certain level of ‘hell yes’ into the experience. But when things aren’t going quite as we hoped or planned, it can toss us straight into a vicious cycle of stressing out or falling apart when the pressure is on, which usually means bad rounds, which makes us more stressed. Instead, remember the bigger picture and why you started riding in the first place. Why do you do what you do? When I asked this question to professional riders such as Daniel Deusser, McLain Ward, and Laura Kraut, they replied it was their love for horses, their love for a challenge, or perhaps a combination of the two.
4. Take time off
5. Let go of expectations