Sally Cousins’ Weekly Training Tip: Making Mistakes

We are delighted to host Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Photo by Kasey Mueller.

One of my favorite sayings is, “A mistake is evidence that someone is trying to do something.” I can forgive myself for making mistakes or even failing, what I can’t accept is not trying. I respect the riders at events, even the ones who fell or got eliminated.

They planned ahead, entered the event, trained the horse, walked the course and then left the start box. It surprises me how many so called experts stand outside the ring commenting on the people who had the nerve to try.

I used to think I had a great jump school when nothing went wrong. Well those days are nice, but I didn’t learn much about where the edges of my training were either. That doesn’t mean you want to have training days where the horse feels he is constantly failing, that can be very debilitating for the horses confidence.

Some mistakes in a school gives us an opportunity to learn how to ride our horses better or teach them something new. I am careful not to challenge the horse too much the week of an event though, that doesn’t leave much time to fix a problem.

For many years, I was successful with an unconventional approach to competing in this sport. I had some wonderful horses that were not quite good enough to win at the international level, so I competed them at the national level and won a lot of events with them. I make no apologies for this approach, I learned a ton.

It got easy and it got old, and I was bored. I decided to challenge myself to win at the international level. This was going to require building a string of a different type of horse and learning news ways to train.

With these news goals, I have had to step way outside my comfort zone. I have made a lot of mistakes. On the flip side, I am riding better and have a renewed enthusiasm for my work. 

Every day I get up and try to do the right thing for my horses and for my students. I have a lot of experience and I still sometimes get it wrong. I try to be quick to recognize when I’m going down the wrong path and I’m not afraid to say I don’t know. I don’t like making mistakes but I now know they are an opportunity for improvement.