How to progress past the 'stuck' stage of your riding developement

How to navigate the road blocks that come up in the learning curve

Are you frustrated as hell repeating the same lessons, it never feels like you're progressing, the wheels are spinning and you're not gaining any traction? I hear ya! Boy have I been there! I've learnt a couple of skills along the way to make the journey an empowering process allowing for personal growth and development instead of becoming demoralised and quit or forging a path that is an uphill battle the whole way. And I wanted to share them with you!

when your horse riding isnt progressing

A few years ago I considered myself a good rider. I did well in my lessons, progressing quickly with the horses I rode and did well at competitions and was well on my way to reach my goals with good results at states and official competitions. But there were a few stumbling blocks I kept coming across. Some discrepancies in my beliefs and my actions.

You see I wanted to be a high level well respected competitive rider and yet I had to compromise on my values for how a horse was worked to get there. At the time I didn't understand but I just knew in my gut that I wasn't happy with the path I was taking. I still had the same goals but I wanted to get there in a way that didn't compromise the integrity of the horses musculoskeletal system, or emotional and mental health. This might sound weird to some but I actually see horses as an EQUAL and not a means to win a ribbon or get a certain percentage at a competition. In saying that I do believe it is important to give a horse sound life skills to give them the best opportunity you can in such a cut throat industry where the majority of people are quick to assume that a horse acting like a horse, which can threaten the safety of the novice means it is "a bad horse", "untrainable", or "dangerous". 

Any hoo, I digress! I was trying to say this was one of those times where I just got stuck. I knew where I wanted to be, I knew the way I wanted to get there, I just didn't know the how. So let me share a few things I have learnt over the years about getting unstuck on my goals.

You don't know what you don't know

Ok this might sound obvious but you don't know what you don't know until you know it. If you haven't achieved your goal yet and you have a coach or a mentor showing you the way and you're saying YES, YES, YES!!!! I GET IT!!! WHY HAVEN'T I GOT MY GOAL YET??? Then guess what, you don't get it because it is in the experiencing of getting to your goal that is how you "get it" and it is in the knowing that you can "do it" that creates the belief and the knowledge that you can "do it" again. This is that epiphany moment where you strive and you struggle and you get frustrated and then all of a sudden it comes together and you go oh wow that was so easy, why did I find it so hard?! It is hard because you don't know what you don't know until you know it and then the world makes sense again!

Have you heard of the story of the 4 minute mile? In 1954 Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes. A goal that people had been trying to crack for years. Within 2 months John Landy ran the mile in under 4 minutes. Since then its been cracked time and again and has been set as the standard to reach as an athlete. So why am I telling you this? It took 1 person to believe that he could achieve the impossible to crack open a whole new realm of possibility that is now the standard practice. Roger Bannister didn't know that he could run a mile in under 4 minutes, no body else believed it could be done and surely didn't know how he was going to do it. He just worked at his goal relentlessly never giving up and then he knew how. So this brings me to:

What is stopping you?

What had stopped every other person before Roger Bannister from achieving the 4 min mile? It certainly wasn't there ability. Because we know that only 2 months later it was broken again by another man and then time and time again after that. So what is our biggest road block in achieving impossible goals? It is our beliefs and our fears. We are conditioned from birth by the people around us and it is there beliefs that create our belief systems. These BELIEF SYSTEMS protect us and give us meaning in our world and help guide us in our choices through PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE however, they also come with their own limitations. These belief systems are protected by our FEARS because if we can prove what we believe is wrong it shatters our REALITY. So while we need to develop our SKILLS to make it possible, we also need to train our BRAIN to believe it is possible (this is why doing something just to prove someone wrong can be so effective. That kind of determination is powerful when achieving big goals). Because when we are aiming for a big scary goal and we don't believe we can do it we won't PUSH ourselves past our limits. When previous experience dictates that it is impossible we create our on limitations and we first need to crack open this belief that it is impossible to make it happen. 

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" Neale Donald Walsch

Review the foundations

So I know it is the LAST thing we want to do when we are trying to PROGRESS, but going back and reviewing the foundations is VITAL! Because it is in these foundations that lies the key to our success. Think about when you were at school when you first learnt the alphabet you had no idea why, you were just learning it because that's what you were told to do. Once you knew the alphabet you able to progress with your skills and spell words with the letters that you learnt. This gave your understanding of the alphabet more depth, you now understood why you needed to learn the alphabet and now you are ready to start writing sentences. This gives you a better understanding of the alphabet and spelling words and how to use them. Fast forward to high school and you start learning about how to construct stories and the struggle of learning the alphabet is a distant memory (depending on how badly it traumatised you lol).

This is why we are talking about foundations, you are introduced to the basics at the very beginning but there is no way you can fully understand the depth and scope of these foundations when you first learn them and so you progress. You say "yes, yes, I get it, I want to move on do more exciting things!". But the limitations to the depth of your understanding blocks how far you progress. Sooner or later you have to come back to those foundations you originally learnt and relearn them with the new knowledge you have about the process. 

For example, when you first start learning to ride you need your horse to stop and to go. Once you have achieved this you are ready to learn how to keep the horse forward. A lot of lessons are involved in this, you need to develop your seat, you need to understand how to ask a horse to keep forward from your aids, and you will probably have some hiccups along the way. Guaranteed you will quickly come to understand why you needed to learn how to make your horse stop and go first! Once you are able to keep your horse forward you are ready to learn how to keep your horse balanced and the stop and go develops into tempo changes and half halts. This brings its own new set of challenges (how good are your brakes and your go? How balanced is your seat? What the hell is a half halt anyway? etc) And so again you need to review your foundations and how well established they are and how clearly you understand them. 

So if you are stuck don't say "I already know that". Review what you "already know" with fresh, more educated eyes, break it done and find the gaps in your understanding because this will be what you don't know that you don't know.  

"The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know" Albert Einstein

Self affirmation exercises and mantras

horse rider development

What does your self talk sound like? Are you constantly saying to yourself "I can't do this", "this is too hard", "why would someone like me be able to do this?", "I don't deserve this result", or are you saying "you got this!", "you can do this", "you've done it before, you can do it again", "you deserve to get your goals". If you talk to yourself in a supportive and encouraging way you have a better chance of sticking it out when it gets tough, reduced stress and improved resilience to stress and its negative effects and an increased chance of making the behavioural changes required to achieve their goals whether it be lifestyle, health, fitness, business or anything in between. The trick to positive affirmations ACTUALLY working is that you have to believe in it now and VISUALISE the future impact of these changes. Examples include:

·        I deserve to lead a good life and then visualise what a good life looks like to you.

·        Today I choose only healthy choices and then visualise what making healthy choices look like and telling a friend in the future how you made these changes.

·        I am a good horse rider and I am improving each day and then visualise what you want your riding and your horse to look like. 

These are just a couple of examples of how to use positive affirmations. To truly understand why you're stuck and discover the best affirmations for you to get unstuck another practice is journalling.

"Whether you believe you can or you can't you are right." Henry Ford


Journalling is the best way to transform current beliefs and self talk that are holding you back so that your beliefs and self talk become more supportive of your efforts and your goals. Because at the root of what is blocking us is a thought, or a belief that is no longer supporting or helping us. Journalling is like a free trip to the psychiatrist. A word of caution, if you have experienced a traumatic event you may want to work with a professional in this process. Throughout our lives from our earliest days as children we have rationalised our experiences with beliefs that makes sense to us at that age. We also take on the beliefs of our family, teachers and other role models and influencers. When these beliefs go on unchallenged they can seriously limit us for future success. 

For example, a child might be told you are a bad child and you do not deserve a treat. This belief  could become ingrained in the psyche so that as an adult you could trigger this thought inadvertently and punish yourself for being "bad" or develop a vice to deal with this emotional trigger. In the same way if you have had support through your struggles as a child, as an adult those words of wisdom will come back to you to help you through your challenges. So basically journalling is taking your current struggle and asking why, why, why, why, why until you get down to the root cause of the thought that is limiting your progress. 

For example you might be trying to overcome your struggle with wanting to improve your health but not sticking to your meal plan. Ask yourself why and really dig deep, what is the root thought form preventing you sticking to your goal. It may surprise you, it often surprises me! And from there you can create a new belief with positive affirmations and this is how you can truly believe in these affirmations and transform your life from the foundations which will have significant flow on affects in all areas of your life. 

Follow through and commitment

"Most people give up just before they are about to achieve success" Ross Perot

Think of your goal as an island that you want to get to. Where you are now is the mainland. The work you have to do is like building a bridge to the island. You have to STICK TO THE DAMN PLAN. You have to COMPLETE the bridge to get to the island. Once the bridge is forged each time you try to get to the island gets easier. Where you are stuck is just an obstacle in completing the bridge that you have to navigate to get to the island. If each time you get stuck you start building a new bridge than all you will have is a bunch of half formed bridges and no success. But if you stop, REVIEW YOUR PLAN (look at the foundations), FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT YOU NOW KNOW (fill the gaps in your understanding the lessons learnt that got you to where you are), ASSESS YOUR BELIEFS AND SELF TALK (make sure you are supporting yourself on your journey and enjoying the process) and try the heck again!! Because what got you here won't get you there, be flexible in your approach but commit to your goals and stick to them until you get there. 

"Failure is the opportunity to try again more intelligently" Henry Ford

Do you need assistance to progress to the next level? Equestrian Movement courses will soon be available to allow you to reset your progress soon - sign up to our email list to keep up to date!

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