Everything Else

Learning to accept failure.

Riding as a sport and horses in general are so unpredictable in nature that you are guaranteed you will be experiencing a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.

Despite appearances banded about mainly by those wearing rose tinted spectacles it is impossible to maintain a constant stream of success without things going wrong at some point. For this very reason it is therefore essential that you learn to accept failure and how to cope with it. I don’t in anyway mean to suggest that you should go out expecting to fail but you need to be prepared that if it does go wrong it isn’t the be all and end all.

No matter your preparation sometimes things don't go to plan

No matter your preparation sometimes things don’t go to plan, it’s how you react that is most important.

So you’re at an event and it all goes belly up, your dressage is acceptable but you know you can do better, your showjumping round produces a cricket score and your cross country you would rather just forget. So what do you do? Sulk say you’re giving up and never compete again? Ignore the result and go out the next weekend at the same level? Or do you feel disappointed but look at what happened go home and try and fix the problems? Hopefully you are all saying the last option!

There is no failure in saying you and/or your horse has reached its talent ceiling or pushed up a level too fast, and so dropping back down a level to that at which you are comfortable. Not every horse and rider are capable of competing at the top level and it would be very dangerous for someone to harbour the belief they could. Just because your friend and her horse which just happens to be the same age and breeding as yours is competing at intermediate doesn’t mean that you should or even could do so yourself, so it is dangerous to make such comparisons.

It is perfectly natural to feel disappointed and despondent when things go wrong but you can’t dwell on these emotions, you need to learn from your mistakes and find out what is causing the issues then pick yourself and get going again, and there is no issue with that being at a lower level to that at which the problems occurred.

Ultimately eventing for amateurs is about the thrill, excitement and fun of the sport as we sure as hell are not in it for the money. Things will go wrong but don’t dwell on them, learn from your mistakes so for the next event you can be back enjoying yourself and the sport.

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  • I read an interesting piece today about vets learning to fail. So many of them were the best pupil in their school year, got straight As for everything, played the violin to grade 8 etc. etc. As a result the first time some of them face failure is as an adult and they have no coping strategies in place which can lead to disastrous consequences. People who have faced failure from an early age tend to have learnt how to deal with it, at least to some extent.

    I haven’t read it yet (will do so very shortly) but the authors recommended The Chimp Paradox as a very interesting read on the subject and a guide to optimising your mental focus and the way you deal with failure.


  • Try doing BD in certain venues around Gloucestershire on a cheap, non-warmblood horse. You will learn to fail again and again and again!