Are You Expecting Too Much of Yourself and Your Horse?

We all want success and we want it now.  We've been taught to "reach for the stars" and set big goals.  As a result, sometimes we expect so much of ourselves and our horses that we are rarely happy with our results.

If you've ever said (even to yourself),

"I should be better than this!"

Then you end up feeling like a failure because that "I should be" is really a disguise for that self-defeating old mantra that whispers quietly  "I'm not good enough".

Failure is not a fact

But what if you are exactly where you should be - where you need to be.

Maybe where you think you should be is simply wishful thinking.  Replace the phrase "should be" with "wish I was" ...

  • "I wish I was better than this."
  • "I wish I was able to ..."
  • "I wish I wasn't so ..."

What are you basing your opinion that you "should be ..." on?  Who are you comparing yourself to?

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to riding.  Your results - where you are now - come from not only your physical ability, your competency and your confidence level, but also from your horse's ability, level of training and confidence.

There is a reason that successful people (you know the ones at the horse shows that always seem to be in the top 3 placings and get Champion awards in not one but multiple classes) do so well.  They put in the hours.  If they haven't done it themselves then someone else has put the hours into their horse so they can just sit up there, look pretty and - as long as they stay out of the horse's way - win.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers", people who become really good at something - really master it - have spent at least 10000 hours working on that particular thing.  Ten Thousand Hours!  That's about 3 hours a day for 10 years.  So, if you have been riding for 10 years, but only 1 hour a week, you have only put in about 520 hrs (1 hr x 52 wk x 10 yr).  That's being generous and assuming you didn't miss a single hour in any year because of illness, injury, vacations, holidays, etc.

This is not to say that you need to put 10,000 hours into your riding to become good at it -  unless you want to be competitive at the highest levels of the sport.  But, it puts into perspective the amount of time needed to develop a particular level of skill.

Chances are slim to none that you will progress very far in developing mastery of any skill if you only put in 1 hour of practice a week.  Now lots of people enjoy a weekly riding lesson and are quite happy to spend that time in the saddle.  They don't want or expect to achieve much more than the connection with the horse.

But, if you want to progress in your training - for personal fulfilment or to achieve ribbons, trophies and recognition in the show ring - the once a week hourly ride is not going to get your there.  Most people get discouraged when they feel that they aren't making progress at the rate they "should" or that they aren't as good as "her" or "him" or "them".   We are certainly masters at comparing ourselves to others. We've all had more than 10000 hours practicing that skill.  Even if it doesn't help us.

When our expectations are not in line with our reality ie. your other commitments  & responsibilities don't allow you to ride 3 -6 hours a week, then you won't be as successful in the show ring as "that other competitor that wins everything".  Even if you are a pleasure rider, neither your riding skill nor your horse's training will progress very far or very fast.

You can either be frustrated with  yourself, your coach and your horse and keep your expectations.  Or, you can adjust your expectations to match the reality of your situation. If the reality is that you can only ride once week, then focus on enjoying that one ride.  The choice is yours ... should you decide to make it.

Your Turn

How do your goals & expectations affect your enjoyment of riding?  Sharing your experiences or questions is simple.  Just leave a comment or share your thoughts below or through FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter.

Do you know how some women lose their passion and even given up riding because they've lost their confidence?  Well what I do is teach you tools (and how to use them) to help you regain your confidence and your passion while building the partnership you and your horse deserve.

You can get your Free Instant Access to my report "The 3 Most Important Skills You Need to Develop Confidence With Horses" when you visit

Brought to you by Anne Gage of Confident Horsemanship ~ Putting you and your horse in good hands.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (  

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Comment by Anne Gage on November 27, 2013 at 4:01pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Jackie.  You are on quite a journey and are proof that 'where there's a will, there's a way'!

Comment by Jackie Cochran on November 27, 2013 at 2:19pm

When I was in my early twenties I had a horse and no money.  I kept the horse, barely paying board, because I knew that boarding my horse in pasture back then was much, much, much cheaper than good lessons.  Yes, for the first few years I only rode once or twice a week because I could not afford a car, my husband and I hitch-hiked to the stable.

Once we could afford a car I dropped everything else but working and got out to ride my wonderful horse trying for everyday for at least an hour or two.  I could not afford good lessons and I could not afford to show.  I just rode as much as I could,  and later I bought weanlings because I could not afford anything older, trained them myself, got a little bit of land so I could afford a few more horses, and I rode as much as I could until a car wreck triggered a major attack in my then undiagnosed MS.

Now, disabled by MS and no longer able to own horses I am lucky that I found 2 stables that are willing to work with the fact that I can ride for only 30 minutes and that someone else has to catch, groom, tack up the horse, and take of the horse and take it out after my ride.  I try to ride 3 different horses a week, mostly at the walk with some trotting in the ring.  Luckily I am a good enough rider so I can make a positive difference with the horse, and the ladies who help me ride seem to like seeing me ride their horses.  My riding teacher uses me on Arabs that just ended up at her stable that need a good rider and since I have MS I teach them to cope with less than perfect riders.

Never give up.  Ride as much as you can.  LISTEN TO YOUR HORSE!!!!! Read lots of riding books, and experiment with your horse, gracefully accepting the fact that you will fail most of the time.  Try to ride as many horses as you can.  You may not get any blue ribbons or championships but the horses you ride might actually enjoy being riden by you.  And eventually you might actually develop into a really good rider. 

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