Mental Game: Learn to focus on the positive

Are you constantly smack-talking your own riding? Lila Gendal explains why this is destructive and shares strategies for gaining confidence.

From Lila:

Do you….

  • doubt yourself on a regular basis?
  • lack confidence?
  • often feel defeated about your riding, or your abilities as a rider?

Everyone doubts themselves from time to time. Thankfully, there are ways to push through this negativity and hone in the positive aspects in your riding. Here are a few helpful strategies:

Learn to take a compliment.

This is something I heard very recently from a fellow event rider, who gave an amazing inspirational talk about being positive and not letting your mind get the better of you. Something she said that I think is very important to remember is that when people congratulate you on your stadium round, or your dressage test, or your riding abilities in general, you shut up and say “thank you”! How many times has someone come up to you and said, “Wow–great riding out there” and you respond with your tail between your legs, saying something like “Well, I didn’t really like my third jump and my horse was really heavy on his shoulders through that turn and…” so on and so forth. Nevermind your obsessive personality and your constant search for perfectionism. When someone compliments your riding, just say “thank you”! Focus on the good!

SB xc schooling 2013

Skybreaker cross-country schooling in 2013

Get out of your head!

I’m not sure about the rest of the riding population, but I spend way too much of my time lost in my own thoughts. I am always thinking about what I need to work on and how I basically suck at certain aspects of my riding. I get mad about my lower leg. I get infuriated when I can’t see my distance twice in a row to the same fence. I hate when things aren’t going perfectly–and this is something I have been working on. It is important to focus on the positive aspects of our riding and not obsess over the negative things. Yes, we should recognize those issues we need to sort through, but we can’t sell ourselves short just because we’re not perfect at this thing or that thing. We are all human, and even the best of best make mistakes.

and Skybreaker again...

and Skybreaker again…

Believe in yourself as a rider.

If you don’t believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities, how do you expect your horse to feel to feel? If you are terrified of a massive drop into water, your horse is probably going to pick up on it and say, “No thank you.” There is a fine line between being overly confident and just confident enough. Nobody appreciates overly boastful individuals. Rather, people respect those who have a quiet yet visible level of confidence.

It is SO important to believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can succeed, you’re in the wrong sport. Riding horses requires dedication, practice, passion, and a slew of other characteristics–but without confidence, you’re sunk before you even get started. Confidence does take some time to build, but it can be achieved with hard work and diligence about not allowing yourself to put yourself down. Never let the negative overpower the positive.

Go Riding.


About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.



MORE PLEASE! If you liked this post, check out…






LOVE HORSE NATION? “Like” us on Facebook for all the latest news, commentary and ridiculousness!



Leave a Comment


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *