Series: Riding to win vs. chasing perfection

By Annette Paterakis

In this series of blogs, I will discuss the pros and cons of riding to win vs. riding to train our horses (i.e. riding perfectly). By gaining a deeper understanding of each approach, we can make a more educated, or perhaps more conscious, decision as to which we should adopt and when.

Blog 1: Introduction.

A few weeks ago I finished reading the book “Unstoppable” by Maria Sharapova. In her autobiography Sharapova talks about how she grew up always wanting to get the ball to the other side of the net. She would choose effectiveness over technique. She also mentioned how at some point she was dating a very talented tennis player who had a different strategy. Playing perfectly was his goal. This got me thinking. In riding, we have to make a similar decision. From my own experience, and from working with many riders, I know we often have a preference for either riding to win or riding to train our horses (i.e. riding perfectly).

In equestrian sports, we have an extra ‘complexity’ which is working together with a living animal. We need to train them as much as we need to train ourselves. Some riders are fearlessly competitive and always ride to win. They will train their horses at home or at a training show, but when the game is on, they are only focused on one thing.

Other riders always ride to train their horses or to ride a ‘beautiful’ round. They don’t want to strain their horses and want to give them the best possible ride they can. Riding young horses can trigger this mindset.

And then there are riders, including top riders in the showjumping sport, who are of the opinion that you can’t always ride to win. There has to be shows where you educate your horse and teach them how you want them to jump, turn or react. However, they also have clear goals that they work towards and, at certain events, without a doubt, they ride to win.


“It depends on you, your focus, your experience, what motivates you, your goals and what kind of horses you ride.”


I don’t believe that there is only one preferred or ‘better’ approach. Riding to train or riding to win depends on you, your focus, your experience, what motivates you, your goals and what kind of horses you ride. However, I know from experience that many of us are taught, guided towards or prefer a specific way of riding without questioning our approach for a specific horse, goal or show.

In the next three blogs of this series, I will further explore these two approaches, their positives and negatives, and how to implement each as a specific mindset and way of riding. Starting with (1) Riding to win. How can you ride, train and prepare to be (or become) more competitive. (2) Riding to train. And (3) How to make a calculated decision on when and how to implement each approach.

In case you have specific questions around this topic, please email me at and I will try to address them in the next few blogs. Thank you!