It is supposed to be fun…

Horses can be frustrating and sometimes it can be hard to remember that riding is meant to be fun. Liz Daniels from EquiTeam talks about how external factors can impact our riding.

EquiTeam’s equestrian coach, Liz Daniels, reflects on what we all can be guilty of forgetting… riding should be fun!

Following on from the last blog, ‘Right horse… wrong time’, it seems like the perfect opportunity to ask – are you having fun?

For most of us we have horses because we love them, it’s our hobby and it’s our downtime away from the daily madness of life. Ultimately they make us smile, we form a strong bond with them and they become so much more than ‘just a horse’.

As all equestrians will relate – it’s not roses all of the time and we all know that horses are such great levellers. Naturally there are ups and downs, frustrations and disappointments. Yes – it’s not always easy, but for the most part we relish and look forward to the time that we spend together.

Last week I stood in the middle of the arena on the first day of a three day camp, the glorious sun was beating down, the view was amazing and we are all doing what we love. I found myself smiling and saying to our group – ‘Wow isn’t this amazing’.

Three of the four riders beamed back, taking time to appreciate the moment and enjoy the small things. They were here at camp, with their horses, eager to learn and although they all had first day butterflies, they were all having fun.

One rider however did not share this moment. Crippled with ultimate fear, unable to ride at best of her ability, she couldn’t enjoy the moment. She wasn’t enjoying riding, she was scared of her horse, scared of her surroundings and it looked like every ounce of her being didn’t want to be there in that moment.

Where was the pleasure? Where was the fun?

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Whilst chatting with another friend at camp she reminded me of an important point. To progress with horses you need a certain amount of resilience – it is that digging deep moment that we all talk about to push and progress. But if you are already emotionally drained you have nothing to give.

On many occasions there may be a conversation to be had about the right horse, wrong time (see our previous blog), but, like in this example it wasn’t the case and the ‘issue’ was much bigger than the combination that was in the arena.

It reminded me that there are also many other factors that can influence your ability to enjoy the moment.

Never underestimate the impact that things in your personal life can have on your riding – particularly if you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone during your riding time at the same time as juggling things, or dealing with something big in your personal life.

Riding after having a ‘stressful’ day at work can go one of two ways – it can feel like a chore – or it can make you feel so much better and help the stresses to disappear, and that is exactly how it should be.

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Having a goal can be so valuable and motivational – but too much pressure (even out of the saddle) can take the pleasure out of riding. That isn’t to say that you won’t have ever have tough days – but if the tough days become weeks and they turn into months and you start making excuses not to ride and stop enjoying yourself – then maybe ask yourself why and what you can do differently.

Taking a step back into your comfort zone and consolidating is a powerful tool and there is nothing wrong with doing that. For example – if you love hacking but don’t enjoy jumping, then allow yourself some time to focus on hacking. If you love your lessons but the fun has gone out of competing – then press pause on competing for a while. If you’re happy jumping 60cm but not enjoying the 70cm then just stay at 60cm.

The rider in front of me had piled so much pressure on herself to do things and achieve things that she had forgotten she was supposed to enjoy it!

So here is something to ponder… If you’re really not enjoying it, take a pause and ask yourself why are you doing it? This is supposed to be your fun time!

You don’t ‘have’ to jump, you don’t ‘have’ to do cross country – you don’t even ‘have’ to ride if you don’t want to – so if you are not enjoying pushing yourself, then focus on what you do love.

To finish I’d like to leave you with this quote from Charlie Macksey:

“When the big things feel out of control… focus on what you love under your nose.”

Until next time,

Liz x

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