Horse & Rider: Go from Ordinary to Extraordinary These adult amateur riders make riding and horse show fun a priority despite full-time jobs. They also have three unlikely dressage horses, although each has shown to 3rd level. [L to R] Brian Kimball and his 10-yr-old Clydesdale ADKS Cole, Carol Hibbard and her 19-yr-old Morgan gelding, Intaglio Arizona Storm, and Jenifer Robinson, and the 24-yr-old Arabian gelding Shakar Ataan.

3 Commitments Every Great Horse Rider Makes

Horse & Rider – Ordinary?

Most of my riding students may look like ordinary riders with ordinary horses. What makes them exceptional, is they’re meeting goals beyond what they ever thought possible — and having fun.

My husband and I also ride a few horses that others may have never considered sports horses. For example, he shows his registered Clydesdale at 3rd level while I train and show a client’s Belgian draft cross at Prix St. Georges.

So, why did we start training these horses in the first place? Because it never occurred to us that it wasn’t possible.

Your Riding Success

Kim Long is a full-time nurse. She completed her USDF Bronze and Silver medals aboard her pony gelding Micah.
Kim Long is a full-time nurse. She completed her USDF Bronze and Silver medals aboard her pony gelding Micah.

When I start a lesson with a student for the first time, I always ask what the goals are for the horse and rider. The answer is usually something like getting ready for a championship show, working toward a USDF medal or trying to fix a training issue. I can help with all of those things. Sometimes though, the rider tells me that they just have an ordinary horse and they are just an ordinary person, so they haven’t set any goals.

The list of reasons of why they can’t do something is usually long: they’re not rich enough, skinny enough, tall enough, the horse isn’t fancy enough, the rider isn’t talented enough… I’ve heard them all. I can pretty much guarantee, if you keep a list in your head of all the reasons why something is impossible, you will succeed in keeping it impossible.

Now, what if, we made a list of why it is possible? Ordinary riders on ordinary horses can achieve some exceptional goals.

So, what does it take for a horse rider to go from ordinary to extraordinary?

First, it takes hard work, a good riding technique, and of course, the belief that your riding success is possible.

Realistically, all horses and humans have physical limitations. Some horses will not physically be able to move up to the top levels of equestrian sport. Just like some riders will never have the timing or feel to ride at the upper levels.

Any equestrian discipline is easier on a really talented horse. It’s probably easier for a wealthy, thin, long-legged, talented rider, too. But, the only way to find where the actual limits are is trying to find them. You might be surprised at what you can achieve.

The riders who succeed are the ones who have no excuses. Everyone is trying to find a balance between their horses and all the other things that happen in life. Successful riders have as many interruptions in their training schedule as unsuccessful riders. The difference is that the successful ones keep the excuses out of the arena.

When a student starts a lesson by telling me why they aren’t riding well or why the horse isn’t going well, they are setting an expectation of failure. It’s another version of that list of why success isn’t possible. Every time you walk into the arena, leave the excuses behind. Expect that no matter what happened yesterday, last week or last year, you and your horse are capable of improvement today.

Sometimes the ride starts well then a minor glitch turns into a major issue. A rider has the choice to make almost any ride a positive one.

The rider can let the negative ride snowball until both horse and rider are frustrated and miserable or they can problem solve the issue and go back in the building blocks of the horse’s education until they find the missing piece of the puzzle. The choice is always there.

Every ordinary rider, no matter what horse they are sitting on, can make the choice to have a positive ride. One positive ride leads to another and pretty soon, it’s very possible that both horse and rider will both be making progress.

This one is a tough one but it’s crucial for success.

Keep your standards high and reward small progress toward the ideals. Finding the sweet spot between good enough and perfection isn’t easy. For both horse and rider, in order to succeed we have to aim for perfection. The problem is that perfection isn’t possible. We have to remember that if something was better today than yesterday, that is successful training. Tomorrow, strive to make it better.

Although, if we don’t acknowledge success today, horse or rider may lose the will to try again another day. Push yourself and your horse to improve a little bit every day — then celebrate the small victories.

It’s easy to look at others who are climbing the levels with their horses and imagine how much easier it would be to have what they have. Maybe it’s a fancier horse, longer legs, the ability to fit into their size 2 breeches or a full bank account. Maybe, they do have it easier. Or maybe not.

Regardless, comparing your journey to someone else’s will help you make a good long list of excuses but it sure won’t help you succeed.

Your horse and rider journey is unique to you, so own it!