Forward, Confident Decisions

I set out to write this blog about how I wanted to become more decisive … that was a month ago. Why did it take so long? Partially because of multiple school finals (I was drowning in various subjects … Pre-Calc, German, Chemistry, etc.) but also because I was actually indecisive on how to start this blog.

So I got a little frustrated. How was I supposed to write a blog about being decisive when I couldn’t even decide how to write it?!

In a form of procrastination, I spent my Saturday night watching the cross country phase of the 2010 Badminton Horse Trials, studying the riders and how they rode through so many difficult questions. There were spills and refusals, but there were also a lot of inspiring jumps and clear lines.

Badminton helped me write because it made me realize that being decisive and clear is an enormous part of riding, especially when it comes to cross country. Now, I know that might sound obvious, but it forced me to just sit down and write; I just need to go for it.

And I’m going to challenge myself in my riding to do the same — to ride more forward and have the guts and confidence that my horse needs to succeed. I’m very much a perfectionist, and I notice that I mainly start having issues when I get in my head and overthink every little detail. As riders, we do have instincts for what the right feeling is. We need to trust it. Kick on, and ride forward.

If we get stuck overthinking everything, how can we be clear to our horse? Horses don’t speak our same language, but they’re very in-tune to our body. If we question ourselves, they’ll question the situation, which can then lead to a murky, unsure performance and dangerous results. If we’re confident in our own mind, our horses will connect with us and ooze confidence themselves.

Saying “be more decisive, clear, confident and forward” is definitely easier said than done. I have found a trick for this, though. If I feel myself lack confidence, and it starts to affect my riding and horse, I try to imagine myself in the shoes of one of my favorite riders. What would William Fox-Pitt do? Michael Jung? Mary King? It relaxes me to picture their riding, and I gain confidence by almost faking the confidence until it becomes real.

The other trick, which I always do and I always recommend doing, is to work hard. As well-known and well-respected hunter/jumper trainer Karen Healey said at the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program this summer, “Perfect practice makes your horse perfect. Imperfect practice doesn’t make perfect.” Work hard and practice, practice, practice (perfectly) to get better.

Photo by Tricia Booker

Photo by Tricia Booker

The more you work, the more solid your foundation becomes, and you will gain confidence and your horse’s trust. Make the decision to set a training program, stick to it, and you will succeed.