We can all get carried away, and we can all veer off the path to success so sometimes it is useful to think about what the ‘other guys’ are doing, you know, the ones who seem to be hitting their target. While it can be difficult to replicate what our idols DO, here is a list of things that successful riders DON’T do – sometimes these can be easier to implement…

1. They don’t worry about things they cannot control

Whether it is other competitors, judges or the weather, successful riders know they can only control their own performance and they don’t waste valuable energy worrying about things they can’t control. If you have ever been in the warm-up arena thinking: “that horse is so much bigger and shinier than mine, she is such a better rider, they are totally going to win” you have just wasted half a circle or more when you could have been helping your horse to do his job.

To be successful, you shouldn’t know if someone was riding around on a unicorn, for that is the bubble of focus you should have.

2.They don’t hire a trainer purely to stroke their ego

We all have an ego, and for most of us it is like a small furry animal that likes to be stroked. That’s all well and good, but there is a time and a place for such things, and that time and place is not while you are riding your horse.

Being told things are good when they are not is like cheating at exams. The pleasure is short-lived, the after taste is bitter and no true gains have been made. Successful riders are on a quest for knowledge. They constantly want to learn and the only way to learn is to be told when things are not correct. Successful riders know that there is no value or credit to be taken from paying for praise that is undeserved.

3.They don’t expect immediate results

Good things take time. Horses take longer. Successful riders accept this.

4.They don’t make excuses

Full stop.

5.They don’t have a different coach each week/month

Successful riders know that to get to their goal there has to be a system. There are always many paths that lead to Rome but you actually have to stay on one to get there.

A good tip is if you are unsure of what you should be doing in the arena on your own, there’s a strong chance you don’t have a system yet. It is time to start your journey. Take note of the riders that you like to watch and find out who they train with. You might (and probably will) have a couple of non-starters on your way to finding the Holy Grail, but one thing you can be certain of is you will never find it if you keep receiving a different map, and that is what happens if you hop from one trainer to another. The thing to remember is the riders you see as successful have been through the trial and error process, you have to go through that too and it can be a bit bumpy. Each path will teach you something; even if you find out how you don’t want to train. Keep your eyes open and be honest to yourself with what suits you.

6.They don’t expect their horse to be a better athlete than them

Your horse has to carry you, that’s a given. But what he doesn’t have to carry is a sack of potatoes. Successful riders work hard so that they are an asset to their horse, helping them to perform what is asked in the best, safest way possible.

7.They don’t think they can be successful all by themselves

If “no man is an island” and it “takes a whole community to raise a child”, I think we can safely say that successful riders know it takes a specialised and dedicated tight knit group of over achievers to include, but not limited to; workaholic scientists, engineers, nutritionists, medics, counsellors (rider), non-ego stroking coaches and counsellors (marriage) to raise a successful horse and rider. Find these people and look after them. Don’t go it alone.

8.They don’t succumb to “competition desperados”

A looming competition can do strange things to horse riders. Two days out from a competition and all of a sudden you get a rush of blood to the head and decide the saddle needs adjusting or you need a new bridle to bling your way up the centre line. Maybe you are looking forward to finally getting a chance to wear your new leather boots that you have saved for competition but have actually never worn in.

Riders who reach their goals have systems, gear and management practice that they trust and believe in, which eliminates the feelings of “competition desperados” (it is an actual thing, I am quite certain).

Moral: If it is working, don’t change it

If it is not working, should you be competing?

9.They don’t listen to everybody

Not everything you hear, or are told, or you read online (except for this, obviously) is of value to you. Consult the people in your tribe (see point number seven) and listen to them. You are more than welcome to listen to people you admire, who may not be in your tribe, too. However, if someone is doing a lousy job and gives you their (not so positive) opinion about what you are doing, chances are it’s not going to make you feel great and it certainly isn’t adding value to your life. Listen, appreciate the feedback and get the hell out of there.

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10.They don’t beat themselves up for past mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. And when horses are involved everyone makes LOTS of mistakes. It is perfectly normal to berate yourself at the time, but that is where the self-pity wallowing needs to end.

Why? Because dwelling on past mistakes can manifest like this:

“Yes but in 1952 I turned the wrong way in that dressage test; I just know I am going to do it again” (performance sabotaging)

Or this:

“No I don’t go eventing anymore. Ten years ago I forgot where I was going on the cross-country, missed out a fence and got eliminated. I was in the lead until then! I can’t face that disappointment again” (no performance at all)

True, it’s a bitter pill to swallow but if you want to have any chance of reaching your own dreams, you need to put your mistake in a box, learn from it then chuck it out and move on.

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