Riding

Do or Do Not

Warning: “Try” may be hazardous to your riding.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal Peak Performance column with Barbara Schulte

Work hard and focus on your goals. Journal photo

Words are extremely powerful, whether they are spoken or in our thoughts. Words move our emotions either toward or away from confidence, focus calmness and, ultimately, success.

You probably have no idea you can heighten or limit your potential performance success with your own words.

An inconspicuous factor is the verb “try.” All of us use that word. In most instances, it’s merely a convenient, subtle excuse to ride poorly. After all, we did “try.” We put on a great, cold exterior that we’re going to “try.” On the inside, we’re hoping no one will notice that we’re not good enough.

If we make some weak external statement of intent, we hope it can make up for what we fear to be the truth.

True champions don’t try, they go expecting to accomplish their goal.

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When “try” creeps into your vocabulary, snatch it out with a vengeance and replace it with affirming words. Take a stand. Believe you can do it, and tell yourself the same. You are your most powerful coach.

When I was growing up, a good friend coached me about how to get a horse to stop on its hindquarters. He said that according to the Monty Foreman books he read, the rider should make contact with a horse’s mouth when the horse’s lead leg just about touched the ground during a canter.

Of course, in my mind I kept “trying” to catch my mounts at the correct moment in the stride, but for some reason I always pulled on the reins when the opposite leg was making contact with the ground. I tried and tried without success. Eventually, I avoided stopping a horse in front of my friend unless it was absolutely necessary. The more I tried, the harder my horse stopped on her front end.

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Years later, when I was in my mid-20s, another friend instructed me to relax and not try so hard. That sounded good to me, but I had no idea what to do instead.

He suggested I drop my hips into the saddle when I wanted my horse to stop, before I made any contact with the horse’s mouth. Then, as I felt the horse slow or begin to stop, smoothly make contact with the bit and just allow the horse to stop. On the first “try,” that horse’s hips sunk into the ground. It seemed to be a miracle. After 25 years of believing I couldn’t get a horse to stop correctly, could this really be so easy?

All I had to do was stop trying so hard.

Be a watchdog about your thoughts and speech and eliminate the word “try.” Replace it with empowering words that evoke confidence and a clear image of how you wish to ride. Then, let go of the outcome. Relax. Your riding will be better for it.