Let’s Talk About ‘Bad Rides’

We’re pleased to welcome Chelsea Canedy as a guest contributor on Eventing Nation and Horse Nation. Chelsea Canedy is an event rider and trainer based in Wales, Maine, at her beautiful Unexpected Farm. Her training approach places a strong emphasis on understanding how horses learn, as well as rider mindfulness, and how that translates into better performance. Learn more about her at www.chelseacanedy.com.

Photo by KTB Creative.

We all have ’em. So let’s talk about them.

First, let’s define the term. What does a ‘bad ride’ mean to you? Is it one where you fell off? Left feeling disappointed, inadequate, or like you failed your horse in some way? Is it one where your horse just wouldn’t DO what you wanted him to do?

When we think we’ve had a bad ride, it is usually because the expectation of that ride was not met. Whether that unmet expectation stems from you as the rider, or whether it stems from your horse, the reaction typically is to deem it a “bad ride” and feel defeated and down on ourselves and/or our horse. This is where we can talk about the reality of the situation versus our narrative of the situation.

Asking yourself a few questions can usually help to reframe this:

– What is the emotion I’m currently experiencing around this ride. Name it. “I feel frustrated, angry, sad, overwhelmed.”
– Is that why you’ve decided it was a bad ride? Notice the back story and history that is behind the feeling. No need to retell it to anyone who will listen, just notice it.
– Come back to today. What was my expectation going into this ride, and was that a realistic one?
– If I had expected a smaller margin of improvement, would I have still called this a ‘bad ride’?
– What were the moments in this ride that I felt were an improvement, or that I felt positive/confident about? Can I place a bigger emphasis on those?
– What can I learn from the ‘bad’ moments, and what resources can I bring on board to improve on those in future rides? Can I come to the ride differently? Do I have specific tools/exercises I can use with my horse to work on one small thing next time? Can I break this down into smaller pieces?

As you work through these questions, you’ll likely find that your bad ride wasn’t actually that bad, and that shifting your expectations around yourself and your horse can be more reflective of the reality of training: that we’re looking for moments of genuine try from the horse, and celebrating 1% improvement. Progress doesn’t happen in leaps and bounds most of the time, and finding those moments of 1% improvement can make all the difference in how you view your training journey.

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