Identifying Causes Versus Symptoms in Your Riding

Identifying Causes Versus Symptoms in Your Riding

Identifying Causes Versus Symptoms in Your Riding

Identifying Causes Versus Symptoms in Your Riding

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Recognise how confusing the two can lead to you becoming ‘stuck’
  • Understand what a symptom is
  • Realise that this confusion can impact both horse and rider
  • Use the ‘Because’ line of thought to identify the root cause

Is there something in your riding that, no matter what you do, just does not improve or change?  Maybe you’ve tried different exercises both in and out of the saddle, but the result is the same.  The ‘problem’ frustratingly either remains the same, or gets worse!

If this sounds familiar to you, I want to offer a slightly different approach to whatever it is that you are trying to ‘fix’ or improve…

Maybe, just maybe, you are actually treating a symptom rather than the root cause of this issue.  

In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I explain what the differences between symptoms and a root causes.  You will see why, if you are indeed focused on the symptom, things are simply just not going to get ‘better’…

Why Fixing the Symptom Doesn’t Work

There are lots of reasons I feel so passionate about this topic.  One is the fact that when riders get confused between a symptom and a cause, it usually has a direct impact on their enjoyment of horse riding.  Another is due to this often, usually unintentionally, leading to a pretty miserable situation for the horse involved as well!

The trouble with focusing on the symptom is that it will just keep returning or showing up until the actual root cause is dealt with. 

And there is the rub.  Often, so much time, effort and energy is devoted to ‘fixing’ something that given the right circumstances, will often sort itself out.  Yes, you may see small improvements in the issue.  Pure will power will often lead to limited progress or success.

However, as soon as pressure is applied, the symptom will show up again.  This leads to the frustration and ‘stuck’ feeling many riders experience due to this being the case. 

So What is a ‘Symptom’ in Your Riding?

A symptom in your riding is just like a symptom when it comes to your overall health and wellness.  It is something that shows up because something else is going on.

In your riding, a symptom is the result of a bigger issue going on usually somewhere else.  The symptom is your way of compensating for this bigger issue. 

Unfortunately for many riders, so much time and energy is devoted to the symptom, that it literally become part of their riding.  It becomes a habit that is ingrained in how they do things when in the saddle.

When this is the case, again I suggest first addressing the root cause and then looking at replacing this new ‘habit’ with something more beneficial for the rider.

This Applies to Horses as Well as Riders

Horses can have symptoms affecting their performance just as much as riders can.  Things like a horse being ‘heavy’.  This is rarely because the horse enjoys hanging on the riders hands.  It is often more about a lack of basic training and development.

The same applies to a horse who is rubbing or knocking poles.  I don’t think horses ‘enjoy’ rapping poles.  It is rather something that happens due to something else either being missing from their training, or something going on in their way of going (or the riders way of going!).

It is important to realise that we often fail to make progress when training with our horses because we are focusing on their obvious symptoms, rather than the cause of the issue at hand.

Applying the ‘Because’ Method to Your Symptoms

One of the quickest and easiest ways I have found to get to the root issue of most problems is to keep asking why. 

For example, my heels won’t stay down.  Because…  I am gripping up with my leg.  Because… I am gripping with my knees.  Because…  I am unstable in the saddle.  Because… I am not sitting correctly on my seat.  Because…  Well, an incorrect seat is a basic position problem; and that is the root cause.

This same method can be applied to your horse as well.  Keep on asking why until you get to a point where the answer has no more ‘whys’.  Keep in mind that, when it comes to your horse, things can be a little less obvious.  Both the horse or you can potentially be the root cause.

The ‘Because’ method can be difficult at first, especially if you are newish to riding or to this new level  in your training.  But it is often a method you can use with other riders to come up with a good general direction towards the cause of your ongoing issues. 

Why a ‘Band Aid’ Won’t Work when It Comes to Riding Challenges

I have already mentioned ‘pressure’ as being a big part in undoing so many different ‘band aids’ riders apply to their symptoms.

I personally believe that this is where a lot of confidence issues for many riders stem from.  Confidence is merely trusting your abilities in a given situation.

If you have ‘fixed’ an issue; however the root cause has never really been dealt with, it will show up again.  It has simply been glossed over for the time being.  It was made ‘look pretty’.  As soon as more challenging questions are asked, or pressure is applied, the whole thing falls apart again.

It affects your confidence because this is the precise time you actually need things to work! When the going gets tough and pressure is being applied to either you or your horse. 

It pays to actually spend some time peeling back the layers.  Getting to the root of your issues and then working on rebuilding them in a way that will withstand pressure in the long run.  Horse riding is a challenging sport; you will meet situations that require solid foundations to hold strong.

Embracing the ‘Breaking Down’ In Order to ‘Build Up’

Progress is often messy, and this is one of the situations where I not only advise things becoming a little bit messy; but I encourage you to embrace it!  It is easy to become fooled by the fact that things ‘look’ okay; however unless there is a solid foundation in place, it won’t hold up to pressure.

This applies to both your riding and your horses training.  Often things have to become a little less like how we want them, in order for the basics to be put together in a solid way that you can build on. 

If we take the earlier example of your heels.  Many riders may feel that in trying to correctly remedy the core issues surrounding their heels, other ‘parts’ have become worse.  Maybe the transitions are less smooth.  Or perhaps their aids are less effective.

It is important to remember that when you fix something that is core and essential to your riding, you have to learn to ride effectively from this ‘new’ place. 

Yes, it may take longer, however it will ensure that when the time comes for you to stand up to the pressure, you will be more than able.

Correct Advise is Essential To Understanding Why

Unfortunately, this is a key area that many instructors and parents miss when trying to train riders.  They are focused on the symptom, not on the root cause.  Finding someone who can deconstruct what is going on in a way that exposes the root issue is vitally important for you and your riding.

It takes time and experience to be able to look past ‘symptoms’ in order to get to the root of a bigger issue.  It also takes a willingness from either the horse or rider involved. 

Identifying the root cause of those niggling issues in your riding is essential to making progress in your riding.  I also feel that understanding ‘why’ it is happening will go a long way to you being able to ‘cure’ the issue once and for all.

Happy Riding


Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-

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