Dealing with emotions

How do you respond when kids let their emotions get in the way of their riding?

Let’s start by dividing riders into two main groups, one group that is driven by their emotions and the other group that is driven by tasks.

Which group does your child belong to?

 In the first group, which is driven by emotions, the rider will typically depend on the outcome of each ride/each competition in order to feel good. A good ride produces positive emotions like confidence, happiness and pride. With the emotions being a directly linked to each ride, they can therefore vary from ride to ride which makes emotional consistency impossible. What follows is often a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from feeling amazing and on top of the world to feeling like the worst rider in the world.

Riders in this group are also more likely to take every ride personal

  • “My horse hates me”
  • “I am ruining my horse”
  • “I don’t deserve to be on the team”

This emotional roller coaster leads also to behaviour that affects the rider’s attitude to training

  • “I don’t feel like riding today”
  • “It doesn’t matter what I do anyway”
  • “I am not riding because I only stuff things up more”

Riders who are driven by their emotions will often be more inconsistent in their training. Some days they feel like riding and other days they don’t feel like getting on the horse and therefore their training is not what it should be which in turn affects the outcome of a ride and the competition that follows.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I think most riders can identify with this group and can remember a time in their riding career where they might have been stuck in this rut.

The riders in the second group that belong to the task orientated group, behave very differently. These riders are emotionally more disconnected from the outcome of each ride.

They talk about the horses improvements or setbacks instead of their own improvements or setbacks. They identify that horses have good days and bad days and their focus is more long term rather than short term.

For example if the training is going in the right direction and the horse is showing some improvement from previous rides, the rider is satisfied. They don’t get flustered when something goes wrong instead they look for ways on how to make it better. Task orientated riders can focus more on the big picture and break down training sessions into steps without getting worried when things don’t go to plan for a little while. They have a high degree of self-confidence and belief in their own abilities.

These riders are more consistent and self motivated.

  • “I am really proud of this horse, he is going so well”
  • “This little mare is really struggling, but I am sure she'll get there.”
  • “We need to work a bit more on these movements”

Most importantly a task driven rider is more disciplined in their training. Rather than saying, “I don’t feel like riding today and therefore I give my horse a day off” they stick to the training plan and therefore get better outcomes.

  • “I am going to keep working on it until I get it”
  • “Each day we get a better result”
  • “I keep going until I reach my goal”

A positive training attitude produces less ups and downs and more consistent outcomes compared to the roller coaster outcomes of the other group. 

In order to become more successful and consistent as a rider we have to learn to become less emotionally involved in our outcomes.

What you do today does not define who you are, it is just one day, one result in the journey of your riding.

This is not just true in riding but in all parts of life.

So here are some simple steps to help you become more task oriented: 

  • Become more aware of your emotions
  • Allow others to give you feedback when you are not aware
  • Bring things back into perspective. Was it really that bad??

After each ride ask yourself:

  • What did I achieve in this ride?
  • What has improved since last time?
  • What can I work on during the next rides?

Be disciplined when it comes to your training in preparation to a competition

  • Sometimes ride in the heat of the day (you can’t choose what time you are competing)
  • Ride in the wind and rain (it might be windy or raining when you are competing)
  • Practice riding in an environment that distracts you (warm up rings are often chaotic) 

If you do become emotional ask yourself:

  • Why am I reacting like this?
  • What is triggering these feelings?
  • Is my emotional state helping me achieving what I want to achieve? 

If your worst fears come true, like riding a bad dressage test, is the outcome really that detrimental to your horse and yourself or are you over exaggerating your fears?

Remember, in order to learn you have to make some mistakes. Only after making mistakes can you learn how to avoid them. 


Does your thinking affect your riding??

You bet it does. In the following video I will give you examples that I am sure you and your kids can relate too. There are also tips on how to change your thoughts.