Should You Be a Better Rider?

We all want success and we want it now.  We’ve been trained to “reach for the stars”, set big goals and expect more of ourselves.  We expect so much of ourselves and our horses.  Have you ever said (even to yourself),

“I should be better than this!”

Really?  Maybe you shouldn’t be. Maybe you are right where you should be.  Maybe where you think you should be is simply wishful thinking.  Replace the phrase “should be” with “wish I was” …

  • “I wish I was better than this.”
  • “I wish I was able to …”
  • “I wish I wasn’t so …”

Or maybe that “I should be” is really a disguise for that self-defeating old mantra that whispers quietly  “I’m not good enough”.

What are you basing your opinion that you “should be …” on?  Who are you comparing yourself to?

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to riding.  Your results – where you are now – come from not only your physical ability, your competency and your confidence level, but also from your horse’s ability, level of training and confidence.

There is a reason that successful people (you know the ones at the horse shows that always seem to be in the top 3 placings and get Champion awards in not one but multiple classes) do so well.  They put in the hours.  If they haven’t done it themselves then someone else has put the hours into their horse so they can just sit up there, look pretty and – as long as they stay out of the horse’s way – win.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, people who become really good at something – really master it – have spent at least 10000 hours working on that particular thing.  Ten Thousand Hours!  That’s about 3 hours a day for 10 years.  So, if you have been riding for 10 years, but only 1 hour a week, you have only put in about 520 hrs (1 hr x 52 wk x 10 yr).  That’s being generous and assuming you didn’t miss a single hour in any year because of illness, injury, vacations, holidays, etc.

This is not to say that you need to put 10,000 hours into your riding to become good at it –  unless you want to be competitive at the highest levels of the sport.  But, it puts into perspective the amount of time needed to develop a particular level of skill.

Chances are slim to none that you will progress very far in developing mastery of any skill if you only put in 1 hour of practice a week.  Now lots of people enjoy a weekly riding lesson and are quite happy to spend that time in the saddle.  They don’t want or expect to achieve much more than the connection with the horse.

But, if you want to progress in your training – for personal fulfilment or to achieve ribbons, trophies and recognition in the show ring – the once a week hourly ride is not going to get your there.  Most people get discouraged when they feel that they aren’t making progress at the rate they “should” or that they aren’t as good as “her” or “him” or “them”.   We are certainly masters at comparing ourselves to others. We’ve all had more than 10000 hours practicing that skill.  Even if it doesn’t help us.

When our expectations are not in line with our reality ie. your other commitments  & responsibilities don’t allow you to ride 3 -6 hours a week, then you won’t be as successful in the show ring as “that other competitor that wins everything”.  Even if you are a pleasure rider, neither your riding skill nor your horse’s training will progress very far or very fast.

You can either be frustrated with  yourself, your coach and your horse and keep your expectations.  Or, you can adjust your expectations to match the reality of your situation. If the reality is that you can only ride once week, having lower expectations will allow you to enjoy that one ride.  The choice is yours … should you decide to make it.

Please do post your comments or questions below.

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Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (  I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.
Anne Gage
Confident Horsemanship

5 thoughts on “Should You Be a Better Rider?

  1. You are soooo right! Definitely gives me some things to think about… I will be putting more hours in the saddle and adjust some short term goals to something more realistic. Not a bad thing, I think it will actually be more motivational to be able to achieve smaller goals then to feel that long term goal is so out of reach… Thanks for putting things into perspective. 🙂

    • Mary – Thanks for your comments. Glad that the information has helped you. : ) Achieving little goals does so much more for building our motivation as well as our confidence. Enjoy the ride.



  2. I agree with you and Mary. So many factors are involved with where you are and what skill level you are at. Some people definitely have * Made * horses ..* bought * ribbons ( being able to own the * in* breed line and so on…We who put in the time and sweat are only rewarded with our own progress and a well behaved and useable horse … HEY wait ….that’s what it’s about !!! God Bless ALL of us who do this ( and endure the injuries and the times we have to start ALL over again ) for the love of horses and the feeling of accomplishment !! :)) ROCK ON !!!

  3. I love this post. Too often one is exhorted to improve, get better, you can do better than that! pay me money to keep training you……..
    You have to ask yourself, what do I want? Do I want to reach for the artificial stars, a level set by someone else??
    Or am I happy being in harmony with a horse, enjoying the ride, and feeling as if I’m comfortable in my own boots?
    I am content if the horse I’m on does as I ask. I don’t ask above MY level. If someone on the ground thinks I ‘should’ do something different, I will usually thank them for their advice, try it, and if it doesn’t work for me, I will go back to what I was doing. WIll I be Olympic caliber? or even PSG? No.
    Am I happy riding?
    You bet.

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