14 Life Lessons You Learn From Riding Horses
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14 Life Lessons You Learn From Riding Horses

They teach you so much more than how to bring home the blue ribbon.

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14 Life Lessons You Learn From Riding Horses
April Nagel

Horseback riding, especially when done at the competitive level, takes a lot of time and a lot of money. Riders, and parents of riders, often find themselves being asked, “Why do you do it?” My mom has always been clear that in riding horses I learned so much more than how to earn a blue ribbon, and the older I get the more this becomes clear to me too. Here are fourteen life lessons you learn from horseback riding.


1. You can’t expect to get what you asked for if you don’t ask clearly and correctly.

It may not be verbal, but horseback riding is all about communication. That being said if you don’t ask both clearly and correctly your horse cannot even begin to know what you’re asking for. After a couple of lead changes missed and rails knocked down you learn not to expect what you don’t clearly ask for.

2. Change takes time and patience.

As perfectly bred as a horse may be, there’s very little you can teach (or unteach) a horse overnight. From learning to bend in the corners to learning to jump, training a horse to do anything takes time and patience. The older I get I realize that change, in general, takes time and patience too.

3. Problems aren’t solved when they are combatted with anger.

What are you going to get when you take a misbehaving horse and add a frustrated rider yanking on its mouth and kicking it as hard as they can? An angry misbehaving horse and an even bigger problem than you started with. If you fight with a horse it will just fight back and after once or twice of realizing that the horse will always win in a fight of physical strength, you learn not to solve problems with anger, but with communication.

4. Confidence is key.

Like many animals, horses can sense fear. The last way to get a horse that’s afraid of purple flowers over a jump with purple flowers is to approach it timidly and with fear. You’ll just find yourself over the jump with purple flowers and your horse still on the other side of it. In riding, and in life, whether genuine or a bit of “fake it til you make it”, confidence is key.

5. Practice and preparation don’t guarantee success.

You can ride all day every day, have the most prepared horse in the world, and still get into the show ring and fall victim to the pouring rain, brightly dressed child running down the hill in your horse’s peripherals, or just some bad luck. Some days are just not your day, and there’s nothing you can do but laugh and move on.

6. Sometimes you need to accept that there’s no one to blame but yourself.

Some days are supposed to be your day. Your horse is prepared, you’re prepared, and the conditions are perfect to bring home the blue, but for some reason, even though your trainer specifically told you not to, you zoomed down the diagonal and got a four instead of a five. When that’s the case there’s nothing you can do but try not to beat yourself up too badly, accept that it was no one’s fault but your own, and learn from your mistakes.

7. Think ahead.

All it takes is one embarrassing “Rider, you are off course. Please exit the ring” before you realize sometimes there is nothing more important than thinking and planning ahead, a skill that holds true so many places other than the show ring.

8. The path to get somewhere is just as important as actually getting there (sometimes more so).

The course walk is all about the path you’re going to take to get to each jump, and like in life, it’s significantly harder to find success when you cut corners.

9. When you fall down get back up.

Unless you’re on your way to the hospital, after you fall the very first thing you do is get up, get back on, and try again.

10. Know when and when not to trust.

Asking a thousand pound animal to jump a fence with you on its back teaches you trust. At the same time, riding teaches you that when you get that feeling in your gut that they aren’t going to do it, they likely aren’t. Sometimes you need to listen to your gut instead of trusting.

11. Some gifts are just too big to ask for.

Galloping up to a huge jump, throwing your hands up the neck, and asking your horse to leave from a mile away is a good way to find yourself in the dirt. While horses will give you a gift here and there, they teach you very quickly that in life, some gifts are just too big to ask for.

12. Bad habits are much easier to form than good habits.

In riding, and in life, this will unfortunately always be true.

13. Details matter.

From correct leads to the number of strides in between two jumps, it quickly becomes apparent that success is impossible without attention to detail.

14. When you’re faced with an obstacle, look up, hold on, and get over it.

In the end, both in riding and in life, that's what it's all about.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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