5 ways to stop feeling frustrated when riding

Every rider has experienced frustration at some point when riding. Sometimes frustration can feel like a BIG emotion, and trigger a downwards spiral into beating ourselves up and feeling miserable. Getting frustrated and cross with ourselves, or worse with our horses, never leads to a positive outcome. 

So what can we do to overcome frustration when we’re riding?

Stop!

As soon as you recognise that you’re feeling frustration, press pause on what you’re doing. Interrupt the current pattern and find some space away from what you’re trying to achieve. 

For example, maybe you’re working on your horse’s balance through canter transitions and it’s just not getting any better today. Ride forwards to walk, relax your reins regroup. 

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome! So stop what you’re doing and explore what’s really going on.

Ask

Use the questions below to help you explore what is happening:

  • What specifically are you trying to achieve?
  • What process have you followed?
  • What went well? 
  • What one small thing could you change to test whether it works?
  • Why are you feeling frustrated? Why specifically?
  • What language are you using around your riding and your horse?
  • How else could you consider this situation?
  • What is the broader context of this situation?
  • How far have you come to this point?
  • What if everything you’re going through now, is preparing you for what you want?

Check your language

I meet many riders who are full of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’, and have extremely high, often unrealistic expectations of themselves, which simply means that they put themselves under ridiculous amounts of pressure. 

Most riders ride because they love it; the feeling they get, the joy in having fun with their horse and the rapport they have with their horse. But frustration undermines all of that.

Why should you do XYZ? Who says? Dig around to find the driver for your frustration. 

It could be that you have done XYZ quite happily in the past, and now it is different. That’s OK, it just shows that you’re older and wiser, nothing more, nothing less.

Follow the frustration

If you’re pushing hard to achieve something and getting frustrated because it’s not happening quickly/well enough, know that there is a lesson to be learned from this experience. 

  • What are you missing? 
  • What have you forgotten how to do? 
  • Where is your mind automatically deleting, distorting or generalising things? 

Make life simpler for yourself and your horse, take the pressure off and go and enjoy the basics.

Stop being so hard on yourself

If you’re reading this, you’re likely not an elite rider (although you are obviously very welcome if you are!). Most riders have a career, family, mortgage etc. to try and keep on top of, all while trying their very best to be the best version of themselves. And it’s hard sometimes. 

Think about setting realistic expectations of yourself, in context with the rest of your life. Ultimately, we ride because we love it; if you don’t, then either find a way to get that passion back, or make a decision not to ride. Either way, do what’s right for you. There are no rules. 

In my experience, riders are a hardy breed. We work incredibly hard to keep and ride our horses, offering the very best home possible for them. But equally, we are ridiculously hard on ourselves, and rarely put ourselves first. Be kind to yourself, accept that no-one is perfect (ever!) and let go of frustration; it’s a waste of your time and energy. You can choose to turn it around.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so do get in touch via alison@theeverydayequestrian.co.uk and please feel free to share on social media if you’ve found this article useful!

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