Every rider out there, regardless of experience level or discipline, has had a bad ride. Sometimes we don’t ride as well as we normally do for whatever reason, sometimes we aren’t in sync with our horses, and sometimes outside forces create a mixture of things that are not conducive to a good ride. No matter the reason, it’s important to take time to regroup and turn what feels like a negative into a positive.
First things first: forgive yourself, forgive your horse, and forgive anyone or anything else that had an effect on your ride. You’re sitting on top of a roughly 1,200lbs animal with a mind of its own, so not only do you bring your own baggage to a ride, your horse brings all of theirs, too. Even if you’ve had a perfect day and your horse performs well it can still feel like a ride wasn’t up to your standards for whatever reason. Forgiveness is the first step in the process of regrouping because you simply can’t move on without it.
Once you’ve forgiven, instead of forgetting you have to remember. Think back on your ride, analyze it, and ask yourself the tough questions: what went wrong? What could you have done better? What can you do to make the next ride better? Answering these questions honestly will help you become a better rider and prevent you from having similar rides in the future. Don’t be afraid to admit fault; this will only keep you from progressing and suck the fun out of riding. Horseback riding is a complex, mentally, and physically challenging sport—everyone makes mistakes.
Take what you’ve learned and apply it. Don’t let a bad ride stop you from trying what you were trying; fear of failure is normal and natural but don’t let it get in your way. Push through your challenge, within reason, and you’ll find that bad rides get fewer and farther between. You’ll also find that you stop thinking of bad rides as bad—they’re just another learning experience.
Ask for help! You’ll see this one in my posts a lot because of its importance. When regrouping after a bad ride it can be extremely beneficial to have another perspective of what went wrong and what you can do to make it better. Asking a trainer, instructor, fellow rider, or another horse-experienced person can help you look at what’s going on in an unbiased way, which is invaluable for any rider. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: there’s no shame whatsoever in reaching out for help, regardless of your experience level.
Bad rides are not at all a detriment to your riding career. In fact, I’ve learned more from my bad rides than I have from my good rides when I decided to sit down and figure out the problem (or problems!). Letting a bad ride shatter your confidence will only keep you from being the rider that you want to be and keep you from having the fun that we all seek through being with and riding horses. Keep your chin up and take the opportunity to learn and grow as a rider and trainer—you won’t regret it.