When you are riding, do you "practice" your ride?

Just a moment in time

Do you give your horse and yourself a break when things go wrong?

Do you approach "mistakes" with a forgiving attitude, thinking that this is just one practice in a million, and there will be chances to improve over time?

I have to admit to myself - not all the time.

Sometimes, I get wrapped up in making it happen "right now". Sometimes, when things don't fall together at the right time, I feel discouraged.

HL Five Years
HL Bundle
HL Goal Setting
HL Book 3
HL Book 2
HL Book 1

I feel like I've failed my horse. Other times, I feel like the horse has let me down.

Practice Your Ride

As I walked into the yoga studio the other day, I was greeted by my yoga teacher with:

"What a wonderful day to practice."  

The word "practice" resonated in my mind for a moment. Naturally, I made a horse-riding connection.


"Practice" refers to repetitiveness, habitual performance and regular training. There is a sense of repeating to seek improvement. But the key underlying sense of the term is that if things don't go right, you can try, try again.

When you practice something, you know it doesn't count.

The concept brings a positive sense to a situation. When you practice, it means you are trying to improve yourself. The world is on your side, you know you have a second and third chance.

Mistakes are forgiven. There is room for improvement. You have more time. You have more tries.

You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you'll be given another chance. You know that if things don't go as well as planned this time, you will eventually get to the point where you want to be, because you have all the time in the world to improve yourself.

Find the balance between achieving and letting go.

Of course we don't want to do badly when we ride. It is obvious that we want to seek harmony, stay in balance and be there for our horses. It is through practicing that we can discover the areas we need to improve upon and how to use our aids clearly.

But things do not always go as planned!

When this happens to you, it is time to sit back and reflect - it's OK for things to not go perfectly. There is always the next try, the next day, the next week.

Give yourself some slack. Be kind and appreciative to your horse even if you DIDN'T get what you wanted right away.

Be prepared to try, try again. Maybe there is something you can change. Is there a different sequence of aids you can use? Were your aids too tight/loose/quick/slow? Is your horse in the right frame of mind? Maybe achieving only 50% of your goal is just fine for today.

Discover the things not to do and as a byproduct, the things to do. Keep trouble-shooting but avoid building tension and getting stressed.

And if all else fails, quit while you're ahead.

Feel the freedom that practice can give you. It is not essential to be perfect, because so long as you keep practicing, the achievement will come on its own. Let it go and enjoy your ride!

There's always tomorrow.


I looked into my yoga instructor's eyes, enjoying the deeper understanding (and riding connections) I had just made with just that simple word "practice". I felt a sense of relief in knowing that I wasn't going to be expected to be perfect in my yoga practice that day. I also gave myself the permission to enjoy that same feeling in my future horseback rides!

Do you regularly "practice" during your rides? Is there a time in your riding where the concept of practicing could fit in? Do you or can you let go of the tension that comes along with perfectionism and relax more into the rhythm of trying differently the next time? Share your observations in the comments below.

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!

horse logos 1

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2


Read more here: 

Softly Determined – A Poem: I found this one on the Internet long ago, with no indication of the author. However, it has stayed with me, blending intensity with passion, being so eloquent and yet knowledgeable about the “path”.

Ask 25 Horse People One Question…: … and get 25 different answers! What to do with all the opinions out there.

Do You Make This Timing Mistake When Riding Your Horse? Have you ever given your horse an aid and got nothing in return? There could be one other variable that you might not have considered…

Speaking “Horse” (a.k.a. “Pushing the Envelope”): Horses send messages out as much as humans do. Once you know how to listen to your horse, a whole world of communication can open up for you.


  1. AHHHH! The gift of time. It is in our power to give ourselves the time to practice.
    ‘We have time, let’s not waste time.’ C. De Kunfy.

  2. Practice applies to so many areas of life.

    I used to have a job that involved coaching creative people. All too often, the self-imposed pressure to deliver a ‘result’, a completed outcome, would render artists inert. By recovering the ability to play and experiment, they’d rediscover the ability to explore and arrive at outcomes via a different route to the one they’d originally envisaged.

    Being ‘in the moment’ doesn’t mean forgetting about where we’re planning to go. It does allow the energy to spring up and our life force to reassert itself though. We don’t need speed to move forwards!

  3. So needed this right now as I seem to struggle with the same thing over and over… will think of it as not frustrating but simply practicing – soooo love your work 🙂

  4. This is such a fantastic way of looking at things. I ride and practice yoga also but have never, until now made the connection to the word – practice – It certainly makes things much more enjoyable and releases you from getting frustrated with my ‘mistakes’ and ‘imperfections’. Great post, thank you !

  5. A short time ago I changed my attitude to my riding to something similar. It doesn’t matter how long this takes. I will give us both the gift of time. We might not improve rapidly but we get there together.

  6. This is a great way to look at riding and it explains perfectly what I try to remind myself of everyday – showing up and giving 110% of my attention, focus and effort is what is important. With that the results will come naturally.

  7. The concept of practice is fantastic for riding a test at a show. There is no such thing as a perfect test. We are practicing our art of dressage and receiving feedback on areas where we can improve from someone who is specially trained to give us feedback, so we can go home and practice some more.

  8. Recently I read an article about the habits of successful practicers. It seems that repetition does not matter. What does matter is correct repetition. In other words, successful practicers stop to think about mistakes and try to determine their causes. Then when they get to the tricky part again, say a difficult measure in a piece of music, they slow down and focus on not repeating the mistake. This made a lot of sense to me since we are teaching ourself and our horse each time we ride.

  9. I love yoga and I love riding. I always try to hit the mat at least for a few stretches before riding so that I can bring that mind (and body) set to my ride. These two practices continually intertwine for me and give me peace, balance, and joy. Both are a practice and a way of life.