California Riding Magazine • August, 2008

The Emotional Side of Riding

by Robin Heckle

“Let it go.” That’s my mantra lately. I find that I have a tendency to want to hang onto things, especially the negative ones. My natural approach to mistakes or frustrations seems to be to grasp onto them tightly and not easily let them go.

One of the most detrimental side effects of this is that both negativity and frustration take me out of the moment. Typically, they put me in the past wishing something could have been different (I wish I hadn’t blown that fence) or fighting acceptance of how something really is (yes-this lead change problem is really happening with my horse right now) as opposed to how I want it to be.

I don’t spend nearly as much time talking about a nice fence I had a day or a week ago as I do telling anyone who’ll listen about yesterday’s “ugly fence.” I can easily beat myself up for a common mistake like chipping. For me perfectionism equals negativity. I seem to regularly forget I am an amateur rider and a human being—
what a concept!

Today is a great example of frustration trying to bring me down. I was in the warm-up ring at a local show and there seemed to be an ongoing traffic jam no matter which fence I tried to school over or what line along the rail I took. I started to get frustrated and it showed in my riding. When my trainer corrected a mistake I was making, I felt myself want to argue instead of just correct the mistake. When things aren’t going my way (i.e. I’m frustrated) being argumentative seems to be a trait that quickly appears.

So what’s the solution? It was suggested to me by a wise man in my life, my trainer, that I learn to use more positive words when describing my mistakes. The mistakes he reminds me that we all make—the ones that are part of riding. And (this is huge) that frustration has no place in riding.

So in real life what does this suggestion look and sound like? If I feel the need to elaborate on my description of a chip to a fence lets say, it should be something like, “Wow, did you see that award winning chip we just had—where’s my ribbon for that?” Or if I miss a distance or multiple distances (like one of those days where you can’t find a distance to save your life) I could say to anyone that happens to be ringside, “Has anyone seen my distance because I can’t seem to find it at any of these fences?”

And what about when things just don’t go my way? Truth be told that’s what really gets me. What do I do when that old friend frustration tries to creep back in? I sing myself a little song. It’s true and it’s my version of an old holiday favorite… “Let-it-go, Let-it-go, Let-it-go.” I figure that we never have snow in San Diego anyway.

Fun and humor are my new pals, replacing the deadbeat friends known as negativity and frustration. Today, in the warm-up ring I kept my mouth shut, corrected the mistake and proceeded to have a beautiful round while humming to myself all the while, “Let-it-go, Let-it-go, Let-it-go.”

Happy riding!