We all like to say that we are "good enough" at what we do - and riding is no different. We ride our horses, get on, ride on the trails, ride in the ring, get off and do it again another day.

We like to think that what we are doing is good and true and accurate and improves our horses... at least, in our opinion!

So what if the horse forever shies at the same corner in the same way under the same conditions? We can easily avoid that corner. So what if our horse's coat condition isn't just "perfect"? The shine and sheen you can get from a coat is overrated anyway, as long as he is getting fed. Why bother with improving the transitions just a little bit when we do get from the trot to the canter eventually? ANY canter is better than no canter.

And seriously, what does it matter if the horse never really responds when we want him to? We can cut him some slack and let things happen when he feels like it... who does that hurt, really? We get our enjoyment from riding whether he is point-perfect or not.

Hiding "behind the barn" hurts not only ourselves but our also our horses.

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We fall into ruts and routines that prevent us from going further in our education. We get used to running into the same old trouble, and rather than challenge the status quo, we:

- suffer the problems.

- avoid the circumstances.

- "victimize" ourselves into thinking that in order to get our ride in, we have to go through those rituals.

We come up with all sorts of excuses to explain why we don't want to or can't get past the problem.

Have you ever heard someone say, "The horse feels like it," or "The horse doesn't enjoy it," and they truly seem to believe that nothing can be done to change the situation?

Why we must get out of our backyards.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking is what sets apart the people who "do" and the people who simply don't. The ones who do progress and improve and develop are the ones who can set aside their egos and take a leap of faith - in themselves, in their horses, in their peers and even in their coaches.

They are the ones who get up early in the morning and set off for the show - despite being nervous, stressed or unsure. They are the ones who take an undesirable result and turn it into a learning experience. They are prepared to put it all "out there" and head off to a clinic where a multitude of faces watch their every move and an unfamiliar (but respected) clinician picks apart their skills.

There is no way to improve other than to put ourselves "out there".

When we head to the show, or the clinic, or especially the riding lesson, we are putting ourselves in a position to be scrutinized, compared and even evaluated. We expose our skills and training and get feedback.

We learn that perhaps there is a way to get past that spooky corner.  Perhaps the riding ritual we find ourselves in can be redirected into something positive and useful. Maybe high-quality grooming can be an accomplishment in itself, and kept up at home. And we realize that it might be in fact possible to ask our horse to respond more promptly, and discover that we both enjoy the improved communication.

The learning curve can be steep and may make a big impact. It may be uncomfortable at times, difficult to be sure and possibly may turn out to be exhilarating. But one thing is constant - that self-improvement occurs. "Good enough" starts to become "better". We progress past the learning plateau and move on to new heights.

And the horse is the one to benefit.

Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!

Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.

Click here to read more and to join one of the most complete programs on the Internet!

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Other posts you might enjoy:

Speaking "Horse" (a.k.a. Pushing the Envelope): You must learn how to understand the language of the horse.

Ask 25 Horse People One Question...: ... and get 25 different answers! What to do with all those opinions.

To Lesson or Not To Lesson? That isn't even a question!

On Enjoying the Path: You have to enjoy the "work" in riding and not just the "fun"!


  1. Very timely article. I have been riding for 12 months after about 30 years away from a childhood of riding and I can’t count the days that I though to myself that’s it; giving up; too hard – yet the love for my sport, my passion and the most beautiful mare I lease brings me back again and again and again to try and to try and only this week I believe that we have approached a corner and about to make some inroads and suddenly all the training and patience appears to have been worth it and only makes me want more! Thank you Horse Listening for your part in my journey 🙂