The 7 habits of highly effective riders

By Annette Paterakis

These are, what I believe some basic but fundamental principles for becoming and staying a truly successful rider.

1. Remember your “why”!

As we go trough our riding career we become more and more focused on success and results but sometimes forget why we started riding in the first place. From my experience and from the experience of most people I have worked with, we started riding because we loved the horses, those beautiful, amazing, intriguing animals. Just being around them made us happy. Though our competitive mind has made us believe that results, winning and getting the best horses is all we need and want. The hunger to be the best is definitely healthy and necessary, however don’t forget why you started in the first place!

We started riding because we loved the horses. Just being around them made us happy.

2. What story do you tell yourself?

The stories we tell ourselves are the blueprint for our success. So what do you believe about yourself and your reality? Do you believe making mistakes equals failure? Do you believe you are a good rider but you will never be good enough? Do you believe you need money to make it in this sport, so without it you won’t? Or do you believe that making mistakes are the most important moments to learn and improve, that you have everything it takes to be a great and successful rider and that you will create the opportunities to get to where you want to be? Make sure that the stories you tell yourself and the beliefs you hold are helping you and not blocking you!

3. What are you focused on?

Research shows, roughly 60.000 thoughts go through our head every day and many of those thoughts are the same, day after day. So the question is, what are you focused on? Are you constantly thinking about what is not yet good enough about your riding, horses or circumstances? What you are not happy about – that 1 mistake in your last round? Or are you focused on, what IS already good enough, the great gifts you DO already have in your life, and the things you can still improve on and learn from? Great riders are obsessed about improving themselves not about being perfect!

4. Can you change it?

Another fundamental principle is to give power to the things you have influence over. When we focus on things we can not change we lose a lot of energy. For instance, what would happen if we would get all upset about the following – the height of the class, the opinion of our trainer, sponsor or parents, or the fact that you are first to go in and your late? Riders who stay within their circle of influence, paying attention to everything they CAN change – like their own riding. This will increase their influence, save energy and improve their performance!

5. Result vs. process

The trouble with setting result-based goals is that we don’t have 100% control over it. Some days, some other riders are just better and faster than you are. Sometimes your horse might not feel well or be in a bit of pain without you knowing it. Riders who only set result-based goals are led by circumstances, some days these goals work out and other days they wont. But riders who focus on the process; their preparation, warm up routine, how they will enter the arena, their course plan, they will feel empowered and in control. When focused on the process, you can very easily detect if your goals have been met or not and therefor how to improve them for next time.

6. Imagine that!

Successful riders will always envision or visualise their course into great detail before they enter the arena. When they predict possible difficulties for themselves or their horse, they will envision exactly what they will do to overcome or avoid these issues. That is a big difference from being aware of the difficulties and getting stressed about them. For instance, feeling insecure about that big triple combination or the water tray away from the entrance. Great riders understand that wishing for something is not good enough, you need a plan and if you go through that crystal clear plan in your had a few times, you will have won half the battle!

7. How do you exit the arena?

Are you your own worse critic? How you exit the arena, is a good way to predict how you judge yourself in general. Do you exit the arena and criticize that one tiny mistake you made and easily forget about the 12 or 13 great jumps you jumped clear? Effective riders will start with what went well, they analyse what could have been better and will definitely make a plan how to improve their game. They can obviously also feel disappointed when things don’t go to plan, but they will let that behind them very quickly and will certainly celebrate when things do go well!

What do you believe are the defining principles for successful riders? If you have any more questions or comments, do let me know!