Most of our beliefs are formed by all the information we get from the people around us as a child. At the age of six, for instance, we don’t have the experience or knowledge to compare what we’ve learned with other information, so when we hear the same stories a few times, we start to believe them.
These beliefs can be helpful, but they can also be limiting and, growing up, they often become subconscious. So when we go through our lives with thoughts that—knowingly or unknowingly—are holding us back, we don’t realize it is the belief that is blocking us from succeeding or getting better.
Below, I have listed a few common limiting beliefs that most riders will recognize. In case you find it hard to turn these beliefs around on your own, it might be a good idea to find a mental coach or therapist you trust to work on them together.
1. I don’t have what it takes.
Do you believe you are just not born or destined to become great, successful or even extraordinary? If so, this limiting belief is holding you back from reaching your full potential. Think about it, if you believe without a doubt that you are going to be a great and successful rider, you will always look for answers and ways to become just that. But the opposite is true, too. If you look for them, you will always find reasons why you can’t do something. Either you choose to have an excuse, or you choose to find a solution. The decision is yours.
2. I don’t have enough willpower.
When you tell yourself repeatedly that you don’t have the willpower to train harder in order to become better, eat healthier to get more energy, or train your body to be stronger on the horse, then indeed, doing whatever it takes will be hard. However, if you decide to go for it and do the things necessary to become a little bit better each day, then you will! Or, to quote the legendary Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re always right.”
3. I don’t have the help that I need.
This one probably comes from a lack of belief in yourself. If you feel like the only way for you to succeed is with the help of others, you might be blocking yourself from succeeding on your own. Even though successful riders have talented teams around them, it’s crucial to believe in yourself and to allow yourself to go after your dreams!
4. I can’t afford the top sport.
This is a tricky one. We all know equestrian sport is not cheap. But seeing the balance in your account as proof that you can’t do something is a limiting belief as well. You might have been raised with the idea that you can only truly succeed if you were either born at a yard or have the means ready to buy every horse you like. But there is enough proof out there, even among the top 10 on the FEI ranking list, that money does not determine whether you make it to the top or not. Yes, having the means is helpful, but instead of finding reasons why you can’t do something—so why bother—become aware of all the recourses you DO have at your disposal. Be creative and you will be astonished at what you can do!
5. I don’t have enough talent.
This deep-rooted belief that you are not good enough or don’t have enough talent has paradoxically made many riders moresuccessful than they would have been without it. The reason? It fuels their hunger to become better. But for every rider who’s broken the mold, there is an equal number who have let this thought paralyze them into giving up. The secret to overcoming this limiting belief is to let go of the idea that you are not good enough, or feeling the need to prove yourself all the time. When your aim is to become better every day, and to work on improvement, you are only competing with yourself. In this way, the odds of your succeeding suddenly become much higher!
6. I’m not lucky enough to be a successful rider.
Luck is not something that falls out of the sky into the lap of the chosen few. Luck is something you create. The more effort, hard work, patience, and diligence you put into your riding, the more likely it is—when the time is right—that you become “lucky”. When you believe that others have more luck, better horses, or better recourses than you do, you give all your power away. Instead, focus on what you DO have influence over and all the luck that has come your way already. Do this, and you will create even more of it.
7. I’m not that kind of rider.
It’s funny how we often contribute magical powers to other riders, and yet downplay what we can do ourselves. We keep track of how so and so wins every weekend, or at least places often, and definitely rides “so well” on every horse. But we keep track of the opposite when it comes to our own performance in the ring. When doing so, you might conclude that others are stronger, tougher or better at riding than you. But what is reality? It’s the one you believe to be true. So stop comparing yourself to others and start keeping track of the moments when YOU ride well, are confident, and have the ability to win and succeed!
-Photo by Bret St. Clair.