Isn’t it amazing how so many riders just seem to ‘know’ what will happen each time they ride? They have certain expectations that, almost magically, seem to always come true for them. Unfortunately, the keywords in that sentence are ‘for them’.
I see time and again how riders, regardless of what is really happening, will define each ride based on their beliefs and expectations.
And, for most of these riders, these beliefs and expectations are simply untrue or unrealistic. Meaning that they are creating a cycle where they simply repeat the same ride, the same month, the same year, over and over again with their horse.
And all because they are unaware of how much their expectations are impacting their outcome.
Creating an Invisible Bottleneck
These often unknown and invisible beliefs can really play havoc with your progress as a rider. From becoming the underlying reason you lose motivation to actually go tack up, to help you feel a little like a prophet of doom where each ride is concerned!
If you have been ‘trying’ to develop yourself or your horse – but have seen little to no success, I’m willing to bet that there is something going on in your head that has you both stuck
The challenge is beginning to figure out what that is. When you begin to see your beliefs for what they really are – both conscious and subconscious – the work can begin. You can then begin to dismantle them and find new ways of thinking (and believing) that will actually serve you and your horse on your journey together.
The Filter of an Expectation
Having a certain belief or expectation is like putting colored goggles on. Anything you see will be affected by the lens of the goggles. It doesn’t matter where you see it, or when you see it – it is all through the colored goggle lense.
When you believe or expect a certain thing to happen, you also see everything through the lens of that belief. It will literally color every experience you have – until you remove it.
It can be frustrating to see riders ‘blame’ everything that happens with their horse on a certain belief that they have. Every unsuccessful schooling session. All of their areas need more work. Even random happenings and events become part of the story of their expectation!
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your horse is to begin identifying these unhelpful expectations – and then begin dismantling them!
Unable to See…
Years ago I worked with a rider who struggled to keep her heels down. We are talking tippy tow ballerina style in the saddle. Any reminders, suggestions, or blatant ‘telling’ her to get more weight into the heel was met with excuses, objections, or the absolute instance that her heels were down. She clearly thought I was blind!
I suggested a video review session together – and during it, I noticed something. She was literally latching on to every second of the video where her heels were down. With an air of triumph, she would point out “Look, my heels are down”.
Her mind was so invested in the belief that she was right, it wouldn’t allow her to see a clear truth – down for 5 seconds at random points when reminded, does not constitute ‘consistently down’!
What Is Your Mind Looking For?
Your mind wants to keep you safe. And it also wants the path of least resistance. When it can combine both of those things together, it feels like it’s winning! Unfortunately, this is usually not the best combination for growth in our lives.
Developing or getting better at something, growing, often requires us to become uncomfortable; and a lot of our beliefs try to prevent us from experiencing that unpleasant feeling!
If you have found yourself saying something over and over again to do with your abilities as a rider, or your horse while being ridden – that needs to be examined!
Things like; “My horse always spooks when it’s windy”, or “my horse hates cantering, he always bucks”. Seemingly harmless things like “I struggle to ride without stirrups”, or “my heels just won’t stay down”. Or even things that may seem very true like “I don’t have time to actually train my horse” or “no matter how much we train, we don’t make progress”…
All of the above statements started with a single thought which, for whatever reason, your brain decided was absolutely true – and it is now a belief for you and your riding.
And our minds look for ways to prove our beliefs correct. Always. They are ‘evidence gatherers’… They pay little attention to whether or not the thought is actually true anymore, but rather focus on proving or backing up the initial belief.
Looking for Evidence
Evidence can be many things. It can be the sudden number of cars exactly like your new one on the road… Your mind ‘proving’ to itself that it did, indeed, make the right choice when purchasing the car.
Evidence can also be failing to see the small progress you make each ride, in order to keep enforcing a story where you remain in the same place and therefore ‘safe’. It can be looking for any sudden movement to ‘prove’ that your horse is indeed spooky. Or any hint of an unbalanced step, or a difference of opinion in order to show you that your horse does indeed want to buck and throw you off…
The fact of the matter is that whatever your mind believes, it will automatically – without hesitation – look for examples to strengthen that belief.
Some of this evidence will come from your own day-to-day experiences, and others will come from other riders. It makes no difference. Evidence is evidence… And it will all be used to strengthen the case for whatever belief you have when it comes to riding.
Not All Expectations Are Bad
Some expectations are fantastic and serve us so well. I have seen riders who, purely because they believed they could, were able to do things that normally I would have said ‘wait for a little ‘too… And, they not only do them, but they also do them quite well. Again, because they believe that they can. Some people call this ‘beginners luck’. Maybe it is – but it also works well at the moment :)
Other riders simply believe that because they are training, they will improve. They focus on looking for evidence of this – and is usually the case, they find it.
I find that having positive expectations helps so much when working with riders and horses. I feel that consciously bringing their attention to the ‘little wins’ helps to build confidence and momentum.
However, I also spend a lot of time explaining that ‘what got you here, will rarely get you there’. Meaning that just because this one thing works now, does not mean it will stay that way forever.
It is so important to try and look at everything in your riding through unfiltered, unbiased, and unprejudiced eye.
Changing a Belief or Expectation
To successfully change something, you have to first know it is there. Become aware of it. Go back to the stories you tell. For me, a personal one the past few years involved time and commitments. To change this, so that regular riding once again became part of my day-to-day activities, I simply thought to myself “What is the opposite of this? What would that sound like?”.
In my case, the opposite was “I am self-employed, I work from home, and I live on a horse farm – there is at least one opportunity each day to work with a horse”.
Once I had the ‘statement’ or ‘thought’, I simply put my mind to work, consciously, to look for proof or evidence of this.
Now, initially, it took quite a bit of diligence and consistency on my part. My mind clearly believed that it was much better for me to believe the old thought! However, each time I caught myself actually speaking something to prove that old belief, I change it. I simply changed the words coming out of my mouth… From there, I put my mind to task regarding creating a story around this new thought. One that felt ‘real’ and ‘true’.
Remember, our minds are a tool we can use to improve our life. However, if you just let it run on autopilot, your life will probably either stay the same – or detoriate!
Creating Lasting Change
At the moment, this current new belief is serving me well. I am still aware enough of it to consciously look for opportunities to ‘prove’ it or find evidence for it. And my mind has also begun to subconsciously do the same. Not always, but I have noticed a few occasions!
I really do believe that, in your riding, if you are allowing your mind to run on autopilot, you are doing both yourself and your horse a disservice.
Be aware of the words you are saying about your riding, your horse, and your journey together. Always second-guess them. “Is this actually true for me right now in this moment?” is often a good question to ask yourself.
Don’t simply accept everything you think as the truth… Ask to be shown evidence ‘for’ the stuff you want. Give your mind a job and ask it to ‘prove this for me’…
Being aware of this one simple thing as the power to change everything for you and your horse…
Additional Resources to Help Riders
- 3 Things to Work on To Become a Better Rider
- Transforming the Next 12 Weeks in Your Riding
- Your Mindset; What Do You Believe About Your Riding
- Connection; My Online Membership for Equestrians
- Online community for equestrians working on their mindset & fitness
- Online Community for equestrians focusing on re-schooling horses (and ex-racehorses