Mindset is Everything (OR: How NOT to End Up in the Dirt)

Want to become a better rider? Stop believing that you are a bad one, or at least a mediocre one.

My first riding instructor used to go around in our lessons telling us that if we looked at the ground, we’d end up there. Most of us in the beginner group riding class tested her premise that year. She was right– if you look at the ground enough, you’ll end up there.

The first aspect of her instruction has to do with simple bio-mechanics– the head is the single heaviest part of a person’s body, and by looking down, you tip your center of balance towards the horse’s shoulder, making it easier to topple from the saddle.

The other part of her instruction was easier for my 8-year old brain to grasp: you go where you look. If I wanted to ride across the diagonal to the letter P, all I had to do was turn and look at the letter and I’d end up there (yes, the schoolhorses were well trained!). If I wanted to end up on the ground, or have the horse refuse the cross bar, all I had to do was look at the ground. The horse would make sure I got there.

As I’ve grown older, the same principle has held true: the days where I am fearful about falling off generally are the times where I am most easily unseated. The times when I have believed myself to be a poor rider are often coupled with the times critique has stung the most.

We choose where we want to go– in the arena, in our individual riding journeys and in life.

Where do you want to go? The choice is yours.

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