The Many Stages Of A Rider and the “I’m Not Good Enough” dilemma

Let’s start with saying this is not going to be a sports psychology advice…Just a simple story…

Raw coffee beans (seeds)

I’m sitting here with a cup of aromatic coffee next to me ready to write some of my thoughts on the above subject and you know ,that coffee I just made myself, it made me think . I love stories behind the end products and every good rider as well as every good coffee cup have a hell of a story to tell…

This particular hot, delicious, perfect  drink of mine started somewhere in east Africa as a vulnerable, green/white, tasteless seed, planted carefully in a large bed in a shaded nursery. A lot of effort then went into making sure the conditions were as perfect as possible for the growth to happen.

The right amount of moisture in the soil, right amount of natural light, not too much not too little…

Isn’t it a little like the first contact we have with a horse? Before we even sit on one, before we even start seeing ourselves as riders, we simply fall in love with a horse. Or not. The seed is planted. Or doesn’t take.

Annabel and Kingsley
Kingsley with friend’s daughter – first encounter…

Those first encounters matter and our perception of riding can be formed at that time.

Back to my coffee. Once the little tree sprouted it was moved to an individual pot and given all the necessary conditions to develop into a strong little plant that can grow independently. It then took its time to grow roots in the well prepared soil until it sat firmly in it and was ready for more growing adventures to come.

Seedlings growing in pots (from

Whatever age we start riding at we can’t skip our “seedlings” stage. We need the right conditions, right teachers, right horses at this stage when our roots are still weak and underdeveloped, where smallest changes affect us…

It’s our first lessons at a riding school stage, first walk on a beach donkey or just watching horses in the neighbour’s paddock stage. Spider web thin bodies up into the welcoming air of something exciting.

It took my coffee seed 3 to 4 years of carefully monitored growth to start bearing the fruit…How very coincidental isn’t it? Good few years of basic training, having fun, loving horses, learning about them is what it takes to start seeing the fruit of it all. And that’s still nowhere near that coffee cup of mine.

Once cherries are ready, the harvest starts. Labour intensive and in most coffee countries done by hand.


Every coffee maker knows those steps. Nobody would try to harvest immature plants or make coffee out of seedlings. Every stage of coffee has it’s significance and time especially for it. The finished product is nothing without each and every step.

I find that in riding education we have this very same principle. Even our awkward, uncoordinated, sometimes frustrating phase is supremely important. We can be a very good learner-rider at each of these stages like each coffee plant can grow healthily into a supreme cherry barer. This doesn’t mean we are a great horseperson yet but we can derive pride and joy from taking part in the process.

In the life of immediate pleasures required to be right under our noses at the snap of the fingers it might be difficult to be in peace with slow growth of abilities. It’s important therefore that we remind ourselves about it for the good of the horses we ride and for our own enjoyment of the sport.

Where were we? Ah yes, the cherries. Most of the fruit are picked all-in-one-go in a step called strip picking but some finest arabica cherries are picked selectively i.e. only the ripe fruit are harvested by the pickers who rotate every 8 to 10 days. Long job, costly and time consuming.

Once harvested, the coffee cherries need to be processed…it’s a multi-step process in itself, again time and labour intensive…a bit like seat training…

Almost alike seat training…:)

Wet processing in Kenya
Coffee processing: checking for any unsatisfactory beans…
Drying coffee

The processed beans, now called “green coffee” are ready for shipment. Ah, at every stage of its production, coffee is repeatedly tasted in a process similar to wine tasting with spitting and spreading over the taste buds business.

Once imported, the beans get roasted. That’s a sophisticated process in itself but I will let you investigate it yourself if you wish. Suffice to say, it’s absolutely necessary to get it right as that’s what gives mine and your coffee cup that great aroma and flavour.

After roasting comes grinding. My coffee was bought ground as I use an espresso machine so I am probably getting not as fresh a product as I could, but hey, it’s pretty great!


And ONLY then it comes the time of brewing…and drinking it…

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t a deep psychological advice on how to deal with feeling resigned or not good enough. However, I encourage you next time you enjoy your beverage before your lesson or a ride, think for a moment of the many steps that had to happen prior that first sip. Spare a thought to many people who worked very hard years before so you can warm up or wake up with a lovely coffee aroma.

Then think about approaching your riding in the same way as you would approach growing your own coffee tree. Acknowledge the process. Mark the steps. Stroll among the young, still cherry less trees and admire the work they [you] are doing, the effort the little branches [you] make to grow stronger and stronger…Smile to your own efforts, to your horse’s efforts, look after little set backs and celebrate small improvements.


The only rider that is “not good enough” is the rider who isn’t prepared to appreciate and acknowledge what needs to happen before the cup of coffee happens. This involves calling for help as often as required, taking lessons as often as needed, allowing the horse to have his/her “coffee life” too…

Whatever you do, don’t try to brew the great coffee from raw seedlings…Take Your Time.

coffee with smartie

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3 thoughts on “The Many Stages Of A Rider and the “I’m Not Good Enough” dilemma”

  1. I’ve started to regularly take a few seconds before I eat and think of the process and people involved in bringing it to my plate. I send a thank you for them all and to the animals and plants who gave their life to enhance mine. Sounds terribly fluffy and new age but it isn’t. Just a simple change to how I perceive my food.

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