Confessions of a Timid Rider: Riding Ambition

Confession time: I am ambitious in life.

Ambition. It’s a tricky word. I consider myself extremely ambitious but only with certain aspects of my life, like my business and my writing. I have big plans and goals to which I am working toward every day. I am always working to improve myself and have the utmost confidence in my abilities. But why then, do I struggle with riding ambition?


Riding Ambition

Confidence is a problem that I’ve struggled with my entire equestrian life. It ebbs and flows, and I let a lot of outside influences affect how I feel. One day I’m flying on air because my horse and I are in perfect sync. We are doing everything right. The following week, it’s like I’ve never ridden before. I’m tense, awkward, and in my own head wondering why.


The inconsistency in my confidence depends largely on how I feel that day. Tired and stiff or alternatively happy and focused. The thing is, I can absolutely feel when I’m off. While I appreciate my trainer’s comments, and they are always helpful, I know in my bones when I’m having an off day.

I’ve found it very helpful to set small goals for myself. Coming back from injuring my ribs in August, I had a plan. Baby steps to regain my strength and endurance, then cantering other horses, before cantering Delight again. He is very sensitive and if I’m tense then he will be tense as well. My plan worked wonderfully and it was a success! Thank goodness I have a trainer who knows exactly what I need, although I know she gets frustrated at times. Then, two weeks ago, Delight and I had an amazing lesson. We worked on transitions, ground poles, and collected canter. My elation was palpable!

I spent that weekend missing him and excited to ride again, talking about him non stop at the Equus Film Festival. Yes, I love him and I’m not sorry about it. Sassy attitude and all. The following Monday dawned crisp and cold, and I couldn’t wait to get to the barn. I was tired, and my back was stiff, but I was so looking forward to my lesson.

It did not go as planned. As I said I was stiff, and Delight felt it. He’s very sensitive and we were just not syncing up. My fault completely. He tried everything to listen and perform but I was just not focused. And it felt messy and frustrating. But I took a deep breath and kept going until I felt we, meaning I, improved. And we did. I made myself relax and we did exercises that kept us changing direction to loosen up. 

I was disappointed in myself. Why the huge difference between one day and the next? Because we don’t live in a bubble. How we feel on any given day affects how we ride. Period.

How we feel on any given day affects how we ride. Click To Tweet

So when I ask the question, what is my riding ambition? The answer is simply this- consistency.

  • I want to consistently have confidence and relaxation in my riding.
  • I want to consistently communicate clearly with my horse.
  • I want to consistently improve my confidence in the saddle.

This is my riding ambition and my goals for improvement.

I don’t need to win ribbons to be happy, although I love cheering on my daughters at their horse shows. The trouble is that without a horse of my own, my riding is limited. Less time in the saddle means less time together to play, train, and practice.

What is your ambition?

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11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Timid Rider: Riding Ambition

  1. This is absolutely me. My confidence affects Beau so much – and if I’m tense, he’s tense too. At least we’re not alone!

    1. You are definitely not alone! Our relationship with horses is so amazing, that such a seemingly small thing can have so much impact.

  2. I really agree with this “I want to consistently communicate clearly with my horse”. I think it’s fantastic goal to have, so many people don’t understand that when you’re riding you need to be clearly communicating to them what you want, since the rider and the horse don’t speak the same language! I’ve seen so many people be angry at their horse for not doing what they wanted because the rider has not been communicating well enough and it makes a bit mad!

    1. Thanks Roosa! I’m a firm believer in “it’s usually the rider, not the horse”.

  3. I have ridden since I was 4. In my early 40’s I started having fear issues about riding, probably because I had a sometimes challenging Arabian and a new daughter. I made it worse by giving myself a hard time for my fear and lack of confidence. I have had a wonderful QH for 12 years now. My ambition has been to be mediocre at everything we do! We have worked cattle, passed police horse training for civilians, done a bit of jumping and gone to trail horse competitions. We have done this all with joy! He has become a spectacularly good trail horse and that was no accident; we have worked on obstacles but more than that, on our relationship. From Natural Horsemanship I learned that if I can communicate with Paladin better, more in his horsey way, than I am more confident and safer. (This has taught me lessons for dog training too.) It’s all about the clear communication, too. Thanks for writing and being so honest.

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Without being consistent, it will take so much more time to get where you want.

  5. Really enjoyed reading this, consistency is such an important ambition/goal to achieve. I love ‘how we feel on any given day affects how we ride’. My horse is super sharp and sensitive, and if I’m not feeling 100% (or he’s got ‘that’ look in his eye), we stick to lunging or have a day off. It’s so important to understand and learn to control/manage this aspect of riding.

    1. I’m glad you can relate! Depending on which horse I have, and how sensitive they are, can make a big difference. Delight is extremely sensitive and responds to the smallest aids most times so even a little tension creates disharmony.

  6. It is such hard work – but totally worth it – thank you for writing!

    1. I agree- totally worth it! The only thing I would change is to ride more.

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