She let out a tiny squeal and from the ear-to-ear grin on her face, we knew she had finally figured out what she had to do to get her horse moving forward.

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

"He feels like he's floating!" she announced gleefully. We knew that was horse-speak for the feeling we all get when something goes right and we experience a new "feel". It is the kind of feeling that we are always aiming for but rarely seem to find.

We celebrated with her, knowing how difficult it can be to coordinate all your body parts to get it right that first time. She was still giggling with glee although her horse had already slowed to a stop, sensing that she couldn't keep all her aids active for much longer than a few strides.

But that first time was all she needed to go at it again.


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Many of us can relate to the scene above. Have you ever been in that position -  the one when you finally discovered what it was that you were doing (or weren't doing) that pushed you just over the edge and gave you the breakthrough you were looking for?

Riding can be like that.

You can never become too complacent because if you are not the one spurring (pun!) yourself to newer heights, invariably, your horse will help you along!

Sometimes, people get comfortable enough to forget that they need to keep learning. At times, we might fall into the trap of believing that we are done with learning in riding.

But the truth is that the learning never stops. There is always something more, a different angle, a deeper feeling.

We can't become complacent in the training process of riding - we must ever strive for more, reach higher, try something new. (Click here to tweet that if you know what I mean.)

We must find the un-comfort in our comfort zone.

In yoga, it's called "changing your edge". First, you find the spot that starts to challenge you. Then you back off 5 percent. In this manner, you progressively reach higher while still working within your limits. You continually push yourself out of your comfort zone, but only just enough to make a small improvement.

Set your goals so that you are just THAT little bit uncomfortable.

If you stay in your comfort zone, you will always ride the same way. The same successes will arrive at your door and the same problems will continue to haunt you forever more. Even if you change horses, the same problems will rear their ugly faces again and again, for it isn't the horse that has the difficulty, but you as the rider.

It behooves us to become better riders, on a continual progressive scale that dares us to progress beyond our current means. Although goal setting is a step in that direction, the objectives themselves can get lost during the riding session if something else pops up that attracts our attention.

So it is with careful reflection that you must decide during the ride how to find that small un-comfort that will drive you to improve the horse you have that day.

Try to let go of your idea of success. Instead, focus on the process of the change you are putting into place. Instead of looking for the result, work on the movement step-by-step, and see how the result turns out. If it is not as good as you expected, don't worry. Just try again. You know then that you are still in your un-comfort zone.

If, on the other hand, the result is satisfying, then you know it's time to find the new edge. Once again, identify your (new) comfort zone, then extend it that much further. Then back off 5%. See if the horse can meet your expectations at that new "edge".

And so it goes - new goals, new un-comfort zones, new accomplishments.

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.

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If you liked the above article, you may also enjoy these:

Dark Room Doors and Dressage: A metaphor for the learning process.

Horseback Riding the Yoga Way – Practice! Find a balance between achieving and letting go. How to include the concept of “practicing” in your riding.

Riding is Simple, But Not Easy! Let’s face it – all we want is for the horse to do what we want, when we want, where we want, with suppleness and strength!

Ride Backwards, But Ride Effectively! Although the rider had developed the correct “look”, the horse was telling a different story.


  1. I teach horseback riding lessons, and this is a great description of how I challenge my students … especially fearful or nervous students. I work to help them find their edge of discomfort or fear and then keep them close to it so they can still function, but gain confidence and grow.