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  • Writer's picture Rachel Smith

Unrealistic Expectations for You and Your Horse

Where is the pressure really coming from?

If there’s one thing in life that is's time. The way it ticks by and we never seem to have enough of it. The days pass by, the months even the years. This constant passing is my number one fear. My number one driver. And it does just that: Drives... drives me insane, drives me to push harder, drives me to keep going, drives me endlessly forward while the pressure builds behind me. The struggle I catch myself in sometimes is pushing myself, to keep up with the passing time, and consequently sometimes pushing my horses too hard.

I start feeling behind, behind in my training behind in my conditioning, behind in my prep, behind in my goals. Days fly by and the next thing I know another season has come and gone. I bought a project two-year-old about 3 years ago with the plans to train her and sell her. And yet here I am with her still. She’s a lovely little mare but I haven’t had nearly enough time to work on her, and she definitely settles into the difficult category. But I feel the time ticking, as she gets older, as all of my horses get older, as I get older. When will I get the time to start this young horse, when will I get the time to get my older horses into peak, fine tuned condition and techniques? When will I finally get to where I need to be to compete? Every season that passes by I feel a bit more disappointed in myself and as a result I get down on myself and my horses. Next thing I know, I’ve doubled the pressure on myself and feel the weight of my OWN world pressing down on me. I’m slowly coming to the realization that the more I push myself and set more goals without accountability and action, the more I feel like i've been put in the pressure cooker and the less fulfilled I am. As an overachiever with a goal digging addiction this has been a hard pill for me to swallow. No matter how many things I check off my to do list there will always be more coming and the feeling of less time to do it all in. Time will always continue to move by, but it is our perception of time that can free us. Is it constantly flowing past and away from us? Or are we lucky and grateful for every second we get?

The way I’m learning to see it, is that the consistent count down can be a blessing not just a curse. It reminds me to prioritize. It reminds me to take bold action, to make plans. It reminds me to set a schedule. And It reminds me to sit back and reflect and take time to just BE. I've been reminding myself to dig a little deeper, when the weight of the world feels like too much, and when I find myself spinning not feeling like I'm advancing anywhere. I ask myself where is this pressure REALLY coming from? Is it from someone else or am I putting too much pressure on myself? Am I enjoying and accepting every challenge and facing it head on? Or am I spinning in circles going nowhere and not taking any action? Am I feeling through every moment rather than running through the paces? Am I being mindful and conscientious and focused and present every time I get on my horse? Am I doing the things that really need to be done to build towards my goals? We have to learn to be honest and accountable with ourselves first, before we go around blaming Time and all the outside factors of life. Is time really holding us back? Or are we not taking the steady steps in the direction we want to go?

Not every ride is going to be peachy, but when I’m present and tuned in on what’s really going on, I FEEL so much more. I see every area where I am making mistakes and how I can fine tune them, I see the communication break downs with my horses as they try to understand what I’m asking. The less I focus on time and how behind I am, how ‘little time’ I supposedly have,  the more I feel like the moments slow down and I'm actually progressing leaps and bounds. The more present and grateful I am the better my horses perform. The more I actually slow down and take that trail ride with a friend instead of schooling in the arena around a barrel pattern, the faster I actually end up getting towards my goals.

I think that’s the lesson in it all. As cliché as it is, we need to stop and smell the roses. Time only feels as fast or slow as you make it. If we choose to be focused, connected and immersed in the present moment and enjoy every second of the ride, rather than rushing through everything, we'll be able to slow and collapse timeframes. If we do the opposite and keep rushing through life, the days, weeks and months will continue to run together, and time will always be passing us.

So my challenge to you is this: build connection with your horse first, and know that achievement will come second. Spend time with your horses and really tune into them and what they're trying to tell you. Be present every moment you are around them and commit to them with no excuses. Spend time with them the way you did as a girl, with a brush in hand and a content heart listening to them graze. Take a ride without expecting anything, literally be a passenger for a moment and FEEL into the world around you, the energy, and the power in their body and yours. Set a goal for yourself and your horse without having a fancy achievement in mind. Release the unrealistic expectations you hold yourself to and readjust them to something achievable and measurable. You'll find much more fulfillment in achieving smaller goals then you will pushing yourself so far beyond your means that you start doubting the possibility of ever getting to the gold medal level you have built up in your mind. Show yourself and your horse some grace and create realistic goals that build on your connection and partnership first and the ribbon or buckle last. Focus inward. Stop your spinning compass and choose one direction to point towards and take accountable action along that path. Focus on the feelings that riding creates for you and remember what it is all for.... the joy, the connection, the fulfillment. When you begin to make these changes what you will find is that the less you expect, the more amazing circumstances unfold for you and the more you will actually achieve. 

If this feels like something you still need to learn and a path you want to walk down then I would love for you to check out my new interactive workbook Equestrian Goal Setting. This value packed workbook will walk you through the goal setting process step by step and give you actionable steps and journal prompts to show you how to keep moving forward in your riding and gain an even deeper connection with your horse. By creating realistic, attainable and actionable goals you can reduce the pressure on yourself while still achieving the results and success your desire in and out of the competition ring. 

“Change your expectations to appreciation and the world changes instantly” -Tony Robbins


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