Realistic Expectations

This post is inspired by the thoughtful comment that EquiNovice left on my last post, while I was lamenting about how I have been crying my way through recent lessons.  She mentioned that managing your own expectations were some of the hardest part about not being in a consistent riding program.  That was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

From an outsiders perspective, if you had been watching my last lesson on Cooper you would’ve seen a woman who is struggling to not pull on a more forward horse.  You might have seen a few awkward frog hop jumps, and heard said woman shout some angry words (bad habits die hard).  But generally, there was nothing catastrophic happening.  No one fell off.  No refusals.  No galloping away wildly.  Just ugly jumps and some flowery words.


That was not how I saw it.  I went from owning O, to riding some sale horses, a few schoolies, to leasing Dee.  99% of the time I felt very confident on these animals.  I knew I was capable of riding them and looking (within reason) okay doing it.  Obviously there were challenges, but nothing significant that stands out to me now.  They helped me, and I felt good about myself as a rider.

The cleanest horse alive finally got some dirt on him.

When I hopped on Cooper those first rides, and it went so badly, I was honestly confused.  I’d seen much less experienced riders take him around without a single issue.  Why was I struggling so much?  My expectation is that I should not only be able to ride this dude, but also do it well.  Yet everything I did seemed to set him on fire. Our flatwork has improved, buuuuttttt I still manage to turn him into Seabiscuit over fences.  I couldn’t even stop him in a straight line.  Even with my confidence at a high I can feel how hard these rides have been on me mentally.  All because my expectations for the ride were “ruined”.

It made me question buying another greenie – was I even capable of bringing it up correctly?  It made me wonder what I was even doing riding?  I mean, after 15 odd years of riding, I probably should be able to direct my horse over a cross rail.

Please note that I am not saying I’m God’s gift to horsekind – but I truly felt I should be able to ride better than I have been.  Maybe Cooper and I just don’t mesh.  Maybe it’s because I have not been riding consistently.  Maybe it’s just been an unlucky few weeks.  In my opinion, it’s probably a combination of all of those.  Regardless of all of that, I’m trying to spend some time before my lesson really resonating on the idea that I am only riding once a week right now, and I’m in this for the fun part.  I must alter my expectations.  

I don’t need to be expecting to be the exact same rider I was in the past, when I was doing more.  That is going to lead me down a dark path every ride!  I just need to be able to learn, and manage my personal standards for my riding.    Maybe then I can learn to enjoy my rides more.


21 thoughts on “Realistic Expectations

  1. What a great post!! This has been something I’ve struggled with since getting our own ranch… I can’t get out to my trainer like I used to and now being prego, I’m sidelined which is hard. Hubbys schedudle plays a giant factor but it’s life and I have to let my expectations change to what is reasonable for us.

  2. Good luck! In some ways attitude is an “easy” fix bc we are completely in control of it…. Theoretically lol. This is a great post tho. Lately when I’ve been having bad rides on my green bean I have had to remind myself similarly to check my expectations at the door. Sigh.

  3. Expectations can be SO hard to manage too — you say “this is what I expect — nothing big, everything reasonable” and then a little piece of your brain is secretly scheming “but maybe it will go like THIS and they’ll make National Velvet 2 out of you!”. At least, that’s what I really struggle with. But actually managing my expectations and keeping them realistic has led to a much happier Nicole and Murray. 🙂

  4. Truly a hard concept and great post.
    I am always having to temper my expectations. From people, Animals, myself even! But recognizing it is a great start.

  5. I just read this and found I can really relate to this. I constantly question my ability, much to my friends family’s dismay. I am taking on a new horse today actually and he is green and already I am asking myself ‘can I actually do this?’. I’ve also found that I expect too much, definitely something to work on.
    Thanks for your post and I look forward to seeing more 🙂 x

  6. This post is so on point. I couldn’t agree more- realistic expectations can make it or break it for me. If I go into a ride planning to accomplish something relatively easy, I tend to have a much better view of how it went, versus on focusing something more advanced then being upset/mad/disappointing when we don’t achieve it. Great reminder!

  7. Yes. Everything about this post rings true. I went through over 2 months of doubt regarding my ability to ride my greenie until I changed my expectations of the ride I was expecting. Any ride where I didn’t hand my horse over to the trainer to finish off should have been considered excellent because a year before I wouldn’t have ridden a green horse or been willing to deal with tantrums or miscommunication.

  8. Love this post. As an instructor for many years, many of the “problems” that cropped up in lessons were because my students were busy beating themselves up, which makes your body tense. Guess what your horse’s body does in response? Yup, been there, taught that, tried to ward off the meltdowns – both human and equine.
    Here’s a quick exercise that helped a lot of my students: Write down 10 reasons you ride. Doesn’t matter if it’s because you always loved My Little Ponies or Barbie horses or you wanted to be in the Olympics (that was definitely one of mine!) Then before you go to your lesson, pick on reason off your list, and remind yourself that that’s why you’re there. It’s not to be perfect over the oxer or to keep Cooper slow, it’s because you love riding, and you’re damn well going to enjoy it 🙂
    Hope that helps – love your blog!

  9. Pingback: It Was Okay | A Gift Horse

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