Those Rider’s Feelings…Dealing with rider’s euphoria and down moments

You know that euphoric feeling when your riding session goes great, you did everything (or most things!) right and your horse went fantastically well? Do you feel on top of the world? Like you are finally getting somewhere with your riding? Finally feeling improvement?

Oh I do remember those sessions myself!

TABULA RASA…BEGINNING OF TRAINING SESSION. WHO WILL I BE AT THE END OF IT…(photo from my time working at Hippikos, Portugal)

What about those sessions when you got off and before your feet even touched the ground you were browsing the possibilities to commence breeding hamsters, collecting lady bird figurines or something equally bizarre, anything but to ride again. You felt useless and like you were not doing right by your horse (he would do so much better with my trainer! I am holding him back!). Your brain frantically considered sale of the horse and perhaps even giving up riding all together.

I do remember those training sessions too :-/

Why are riders so inclined to go in between those end of scale feelings about their lessons? As an instructor I also have an added plethora of emotions when riders I teach go thorough theirs. I love when things go well for them but when they hit rock bottom I have to be the one stopping them from researching lineages of hamster sires!

I used to find it hard when my riders finished in a down mood, disheartened and useless and blamed the way I taught for it. With time I have learnt when it is me who can flip the situation over and when there is not much I can do on the day. I am still learning this as I go, being positive without becoming too complimentary and complacent is not an easy task.

Anyway, I digress! The key thing is that whilst seeking ways to lift my riders mood on various occasions over the years (also fellow bloggers when I saw their sad posts!) I have come to the conclusion that we allow our “rider feelings” or even “trainer’s feelings” overwhelm us too much…

The euphoria we feel when things go well in a session becomes somewhat of an indicator how good a rider or an instructor we are in general. The latter becomes an indicator how great a person we are…Similarly, when we ride below our expectations, our image of ourselves suffers too. We feel like bad riders. The latter affects our self-worth as a whole and before we know it we are down about many other things in life.

All of a sudden, riding well has a whole different dimension. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves but also on the horse. He or she is now responsible for how good a person we are. Everything we do in training now comes with a mission of proving how good a rider we are, how good a person we are. This can lead to riding aggression (towards the horse), impatience (with oneself and/or the horse), irritation. In euphoric moments on the other hand, it can lead to overtaxing, demanding things our horse or ourselves might not yet be fully ready for…

I would lie if I said I can control all my riding and teaching emotions. However, I found that since looking at the bigger picture I am much more patient and less dependent on singular moments of great sessions and those that didn’t bring the results I hoped for.

I read somewhere this great statement (if someone knows who said it please let me know 🙂 : an imago is not a bad version of a butterfly, it’s just a different stage of it…

It makes me think that when we learn something (and with horses we learn all the time) there is never a question of being a good or bad version of a rider we hope we will once be. It’s a question of a level we are at and a matter of exploring of the learning process.

When I feel particularly pleased or disappointed with my teaching or riding I reflect on this and it helps me to stay grounded 🙂

What about you? Do you agree with the above? How do you deal with your up and down riding experiences? Do they bother you? 

Photo source: Unknown. Please claim if it’s yours.


8 thoughts on “Those Rider’s Feelings…Dealing with rider’s euphoria and down moments”

  1. Ah this is a really good post… I am a victim of this, myself. After my last show, I was on cloud nine- then the weather has been terrible, I’ve been sick, I haven’t been able to ride a whole lot or exercise, and I had my first lesson Monday and walked away feeling totally defeated.

    However, I don’t think there’s anything the trainer could have done to help that except for not push me- and how will I ever grow if I’m not pushed? While she was tough on me, she also had lots of words of encouragement, but I am the type of person to not listen to those and only hang on the bad. I am a first-born virgo and completely too critical of myself. I do a lot of going back and forth from “I could totally do this big-time and be successful at it!” to “what the hell am I doing? why am I riding? I am kidding myself to think I’ll ever be great” and wanting to start looking up hamster blood lines 😉

    I think, also, you almost always feel worse than you look. I felt insecure about my jumping position before the last show, but the pictures and videos really gave me a different story. I’m more critical of my jumping position, because I’m advancing in my riding, but in reality, I’ve really progressed and I have a fairly solid position. I think pictures and videos can be very helpful to both show you what you’re doing wrong and need to improve, but also what you’re doing right and can be proud of!

    Again, for some students, like myself, there’s not much the trainer can do to avoid those low moods. I am going to be hard on myself no matter what. To the point where it’s destructive. I hardly ever leave anything thinking ‘oh that was perfect I’m so proud!’ It’s more often the other way around. It’s something I have to be very cognizant of. Maybe my trainer could never push me and I could hop around 2′ and think I’m perfect, but how would I ever grow? I think it’s 95% of I suck I suck I suck and then- OH, I get it! And for a few blissful seconds I get to be proud of myself and live on the euphoria until I’m pushed to grow again. But that’s riding. I feel you either live in that cycle and grow, or you stay at your same level and never grow and become over confident (we all know those riders…).

    1. The best riders are usually those who are continuously dissatisfied 😉 I think the top level competitors need such mind-frame of constant “I can do it better tomorrow” so in some ways your strive for perfection is a good thing 😉

      I agree it can be destructive though. It’s definitely true that in many situations trainers can’t do an awful lot but I do think that the best ones can carry on a whole training plan in a such a way that the very low moments don’t disturb the overall progress.

      I am rooting for you and Wiz so don’t you go looking at those hamsters just yet! 😉

      1. Aw thank you!! The best advice my trainer has given me lately about that is “leave emotion out of it.” That’s how I was able to go to my last event and do so well! I finally was able to leave emotion at the door when I swung into the saddle, and channel positive energy to my horse, no matter what. I really think that helped, especially given the terrible week we had going up to it! Her exact words were: “you’ll be fine, sit up, have more leg than hand- and leave emotion out of it!” ha.

        So after my disappointing lesson the other day, I brushed it off and reminded myself to leave emotion out of it- it’s a learning process, and I learned a lot. The next day I jumped on and we practiced roll-backs and all sorts of exercises to get him off of his forehand and by the end he was doing much better and turning much better- so next time we have a lesson involving sharp turns with the trainer, I’ll be prepared! And hopefully do better- and then she can throw the next thing my way 🙂

        But it’s very interesting hearing this from a trainer’s point of view! Sometimes it is easy to forget that trainers have emotion, and just think of them as this robotic machine yelling at you in the center of the ring 🙂 So thanks for sharing, very enlightening.

  2. Great post! I agree that in life, and working with horses, it’s important to see the big picture and not define ourselves by what is happening in the moment.

    1. Thank you 🙂 I find real reflections are difficult, you need to find the right time, place etc but so worth it for sports people and in general too.

      Big picture definitely seems the key 🙂

  3. Great post! I followed the link from Alchemy Eventing. I too have often suffered from the ups and downs of learning to be a better rider. It was always really bad after looking at photos/videos and seeing all the places I needed to improve. Over the years I’ve learned to look for the good things as well as the areas needing improvement. For every bad comment that crosses my mind I make myself find something good to say as well. It can be challenging and sometimes all I can say is well my boots were shiny! lol. Or if I’ve had a particularly disastrous lesson I will often end by making myself do something that is easy so as to end on a positive note. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that I need these less than stellar lessons/rides b/c they will help me strive to be a better rider next time.

    But the thing about emotions is you can control them or they can control you. You can’t always just *snap* your fingers and feel better. It is like a muscle and you have to exercise it to get stronger. Exercises can include making yourself find positive things to say even in a “bad” lesson or it can be letting the mistakes you’ve made drive you towards the hunger to improve instead of wallowing in how bad a rider you are right now. (Not that I don’t still have the occasional pity party!!) Heck, sometimes you just need to wallow for a few moments, best done in private, and then forgive yourself and move on. It’s taken me nearly 20 years to figure this out for myself, though, and I could still do better.

  4. Hello keeploki, thank you for stopping by 🙂 [is that an OTTB in your gravatar picture?]
    I so agree with you on the shiny boots! I often have to look for ‘shiny boots’ moments when analysing videos and photos to keep everything balanced: the positive and the things that are in progress.

    It’s very true too about the power of emotions and them being able to control us so easily. It’s funny how we can intellectually know that we should control those feelings but indeed it takes decades to truly “know” it, embrace it and put it into practice.

    Self-pity is something I try to always destroy immediately when I feel it rising its head but a quick wallow in hiding is the way to go 😉

    I like your comparison to strengthening muscles…so true, nothing just comes out of nowhere 🙂

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