When the Going Gets Tough

When I began riding I often blamed a lot of what went wrong on the horse I was riding.

He’s being difficult…

She spooked…

He won’t listen to me…

She won’t get his head down…

He won’t go…

She won’t stop…

He won’t stay on the wall…

She won’t slow down…

He’s not doing what I’m asking…


It’s this kind of mindset that hindered my growth.

I had an epiphany when I was 18/19 and riding with my college team. It’s always been right there in front of my face but I needed to come to it on my own terms…..You know…the teen thing.

I had to ask myself….




From the moment I began looking within my equitation and horsemanship began to improve dramatically.  Several people including my coach commented on it.

Imagine you’re working to put together an office desk that you bought from a shady off-brand. 

The directions are always drawn poorly and left to your interpretation.  According to the directions, A and B must be bolted to C.  As you begin to put together the desk you find the holes don’t quite line up.  You take apart your work and try  a different configuration but the pieces still don’t line up.  Do you try again?  Do you assume it’s a defect and bring it back?  Do you stay determined and put more muscle into it?  Do you drill yourself new holes?

The instructions are unclear and it’s very frustrating.  You want to do the right thing and you’re willing to try, but nothing seems to be correct.

Horses need clear precise instructions just like we do.  Most enjoy their job and working for us.  As with us, if instructions are confusing, inconsistent, unclear, or vague horses will grow frustrated.  They will work to figure out what is being asked of them, trying something different looking for that relief (praise, less pressure, etc).  Whether horse or human, frustration will build when each attempt to understand a cue results in a correction or reprimand.


In a frustrating situation people have many different ways with coping.  Some shut down.  Some get angry. Some cry. Some do something with which they are familiar. Some make it up as they go. Some seek others for help and support.

Frustrated horses deal with stress in similar ways.  Shutting down, losing self confidence, acting out (bucking/rearing), or doing whatever they know is “good.”

When the going gets tough and things aren’t going right ask yourself how YOU can improve your communication.  Are your commands clear?  Equally as important, is your reward clear?  Maybe the horse IS acting up, but YOU are the catalyst for change.  Figure out WHY the horse is acting in a certain way instead of blaming the horse for being a horse.

When the going gets tough, look within yourself.


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