Psychology of Sport

6 Reasons to Embrace Your Riding Mistakes

To err is human.

So is stopping out in the triple and ploughing past the halt at X.

If you ride horses (or participate in any sport, for that matter), there will be mistakes—and lots of them. It’s how you think about your mistakes and use them to move your equestrian career forward that is essential.

I am passionate about this topic because I see far too much perfectionism in sport—especially among young equestrians.

After all, who doesn’t want the “perfect” position or to find the “perfect” distance? “Practice makes perfect” or “perfect practice makes perfect” so the tenets go. Those are outdated statements, however.

Perfectionism is really the excessive fear of making mistakes. Far from improving your riding, it creates anxiety and stifles performance. Since mistakes are inevitable in equestrian sport, and in life, you can conclude what happens when an equestrian has perfectionist tendencies: it saps the joy from sport.

But what if we saw mistakes for the crucial role they play in equestrian sport. Mistakes are the road to improvement and excellence. If you never made mistakes what would you reflect on to learn and improve and become a better rider?

Let’s look at a few of the great things about making mistakes and how they can help you become a better rider.

1. Learning!

In order to improve your riding and move forward, it’s important to review your rides: what you did well and what mistakes you might have made—and then work to correct your mistakes the next time. This pattern produces slow and steady improvement and an enriching experience.

2. Mistakes highlight a healthy mindset

A growth mindset understands that learning is a growth process and mistakes are a part of that growth. A fixed mindset does not tolerate mistakes, believing that mistakes suggest a lack of ability. Even the best riders make mistakes!

3. They inspire action

Another key characteristic of a perfectionist is procrastination, or not taking action, for fear of making a mistake. When you get down to business and make mistakes, you can correct them quickly and move on—always moving forward.

4. Mistakes facilitate selfacceptance

It’s so important for athletes to accept themselves the way they are—warts and all. Admitting that mistakes are a part of the process creates opportunity for self-acceptance.

5. They ensure you take risk

With a healthy attitude about the inevitability of mistakes, you will not hesitate to take risk and mess up. Risk allows you to stretch your comfort zone—leading to improvement and growth. Failure to do so will stagnate your progress.

6. Mistakes enable ownership

Riders must own their performance and actions. Very often young riders defer responsibility for less than anticipated results to their partners. Mistakes give riders the opportunity to more fully own their performances and, by doing so, empower positive development.

It’s not easy to measure oneself against the impossible—being perfect. So, embrace the imperfection and learn from it. Improvement, achievement and enjoyment is the result of intentional training that leads to self-expression and doing the very best you can in the ring.

So ask yourself: how does the fear of making mistakes show up in your equestrian life … or does it?


About the Author

John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach, former professional athlete and current bestselling author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. John coaches leading professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system and is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes—professional and elite amateur. See www.johnhaime.com to learn more.