Rider Insider: Dealing with a Tough Ride

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A Tough Ride
Winston Churchill once wrote, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.”

Running with the same idea, a variety of bumper stickers, posters and other novelties state, “A bad day at the barn is better than a good day at the office.”

Most riders will agree that there’s never a truly bad ride. After all, if every ride went smoothly, you would never have mistakes from which to learn. Each challenge you encounter gives you the opportunity to develop new skills that you’ll be able to use later if you encounter a similar problem down the road.

Of course, that’s the best-case scenario. Working through problems and ending on a high note leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. However, things don’t always end up so well. Occasionally, you’ll encounter one trouble or another that you just can’t seem to completely fix before you dismount for the day. Other times, it isn’t a specific problem, but a ride that is simply not as good as you hoped, and you leave feeling like you have unfinished business.

How do you recover from a tough ride? What do you do once the ride is over or when you set out for the next ride to make sure it doesn’t get you down? Share your thoughts by clicking “Submit a Comment” below. Some responses may be selected to be published in a future issue of Horse Illustrated!

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38 COMMENTS

  1. Horses are both my passion and life, so when I had a tough ride, or I fell and tasted some arena sand, I wouldn’t let that bring me down. After a tough ride, I always tell myself that my horse is just having a bad day. Maybe something was bothering him. I ride school horses, so they don’t know me that well, that’s why I spend extra time with them after a ride, so they can learn to trust me. I ask my instructor for advice and what I did wrong. I always take her advice, and it helps. Also, I ride only on weekends, so I have the whole week to build up my confidence for the next ride.

  2. Before every ride I make a mental note to myself of what I want to accomplish for the day. During my ride if my horse refuses a jump or just isn’t on the game, I think through what we did wrong and try my best to overcome the problem to succeed. Ending a ride on a good note whether it be a good or bad ride can eliminate stress of a bad day and build up confidence for you and your horse next time you mount up.

  3. I’m still a fairly novice rider so I more than occasionally have a tough ride with my spirited Arab mare. I know that if we both work together that we can accomplish anything. So, when a difficult day happens I take everything from that ride as a reminder to improve next time! All the while knowing my horse has tried her best so that pushes me to give her mine.

  4. Here’s what I do when I fall off, get up as quick as possible, get back on and go over the jump again before I can even think about the fall, and then afterword I think to myself, “jeez I’m happy I got back on, if I had chickend out I probably wouldn’t have the guts to ride for several weeks!

  5. On those days were I feel like telling my horse …”why can’t you just behave yourself, your making me miserable!” I have to remember that like people horses have bad days too, when they get upset, crabby, or just plain irrational. So I breath, keep calm and do some one rein stops and circles around obstacles to get my horse focused on the ride and always to end on a postive note even if it’s just my horse calmly walking around.

  6. Even when I’ve been bucked off, run away with, rubbed on a tree, or whatever the horse decided to do to get me off his back, I still feel good, and I’m glad to climb back on that horse again. Yes, strange as it may seem, when I fall off my horse, I think, “now I remember why I love riding horses so much.”
    The only “bad” rides I’ve ever had are boring rides. Then I have to remind myself that if all my horse and I did is trot around in a boring old circle for three hours, that’s my fault; I could have done something interesting (a trail ride, for instance,)if I’d wanted to.

  7. most of the “bad” rides I blame myself for if only I was in the saddle more, if Apache would just listen better If only I had proper riding lessons but all in all only have had one bad experience with him and that was a long time ago

  8. Sometimes I have tough days with my Arabian gelding but I try to remember these things: first, stay calm. Keeping your composure is the best thing. In my first horse show, he was acting up in Equitation class but we won first place because I kept calm and composed! Second, end on a good note. If my horse keeps refusing a jump, I’ll just keep working with it until he at least tries. Then praise him so much and cool down. Lastly, don’t give up. Weather you fall off or you’ve had a terrible day, just take a deep breath, get back on and try again! I’ll almost guarantee you that if you keep persevering everything will turn out fine. I know it has for me!

  9. I try to stay calm when my horse acts up, and then I keep doing the same things that made him act up until he “gets it’, Then stop for a bit, and repete it again.

  10. When I had a bad ride, either because I lost my temper or my horse wasn’t listening, and I don’t end it on a good note because I’m to upset, then I face the next ride with dread. But if I start off slow and don’t do whatever I did the last time that made it turn into a bad ride, then it’s usually okay…and take heart. You usually don’t have two horrible rides right in a row.

  11. When I have a tough day with my 6 year old gelding I take a break to calm down and then get back on and ride again. If I don’t I’m afraid I’ll get hurt and won’t ride for a few days. Then both me and my horse are miserable next time I ride.

  12. This can be though, but you must always remain positive for the better of you and your horse. I always to try to look for the bright side; this incident made me that much more experienced, it gave me a new challenge to work on, this challenge can help me to grow closer to my horse and create a stronger bond, and I still got to ride today! Next time you ride be excited and don’t anticipate bad behavior, your horse can sense your feelings. And when you think good thoughts about your ride it should go more smoothly, never let a rough ride stop you, be excited for the new challenge!

  13. After a tough ride I always do something I know we can do well such as a nice flying lead or a stretchy trot. If we had a rough jumping school I like to make a crossrail and let my horse regain his confidence letting him do a little hand gallop afterwards. I never want to end on a bad note so I turn it into a positive one!

  14. When I feel myself getting upset/anxious/angry, I step down and take a breather. Get back on go back to what was good and end there. Think about what lead up to the issue and come up with a plan for another day.

  15. After a tough ride, I give my horse encouragement to do better next time. I know that he tried his best, even if his best wasn’t what I wanted. I try to think about what I did wrong too, if I gave the wrong signal, or got angry too fast. If we both know we tried our best, we’ll have a better ride next time.

  16. Sometimes, it’s not always my horse’s fault that the ride was bad, maybe it was my fault that he “rushed” the jump because I got into two-point too early. But that’s why I ride, to make myself a better rider so that my horse and I can have enjoyable rides. And some days Eragon is not feeling well and he decides that he’s not going to jump “one more single jump”! So we go on a trail ride or do some ground work or even just hang out and better our friendship together and get to know each other more. Always try to end a bad ride on a good note, even if he didn’t jump the jump I wanted to, but perfectly went over 20 ground poles instead, I’d say that’s a good ride :). And if you take precautions and get to know your horse better, bad rides will be history!

  17. Like most riders, I try to end each ride on a good note. A tough ride can mean different things to each rider, so it’s important to listen to yourself as well as your horse. Sometimes this means breaking things down, switching things up or going back a step on your next ride. The biggest factor is not to get frustrated with yourself, because that feeling can transfer right down to your horse. Focus on what went right, and start there the next time you saddle up.

  18. Just breath and relax. Problems make you a better rider. Just climb back into the saddle put it mind in a happy place and ride. If you start tensing up try some breathing activities or have someone make you laugh. Ridig isn’t supposed to be stressful.

  19. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! The tough rides are the ones that truly improve your riding ability. You should never get discouraged with these rides, because they will teach you a lot more than the “perfect” rides.

  20. I think it helps to remember why I got on in the first place. The ride might not have been “perfect”, but I didn’t get on for perfection, I got on for the ride. The moment when something clicks, and the bond between me and my horse takes on a new level, is worth every it. Every bump and bruise, and emergency trip to the ER, makes every milestone just that much bigger. It’s the journey that counts. Blessings, Eowyn 🙂

  21. After seeing that my horse is taken care of, I stop to think what I accomplished during that ride. Most of all I find a lesson of patience and humility. Falling off is what makes a good rider. I use this information to aid me in my next ride!

  22. I think the best way to recover from a difficult ride is to simply spend time with your horse. It can be frustrating when nothing seems to go right, but just being around horses gives me a peaceful feeling; whether I am grooming them or just standing outside their stall watching . When you enjoy time with your horse, it is easier to tell yourself that you tried your best and that you will do better next time.

  23. I think the best way to recover from a difficult ride is to spend time with your horse, especially grooming him. Chances are if you had a tough and frustrating ride, so did your horse. Horses, like people, have bad days too; you shouldn’t reward this behavior but don’t add to it by blaming your horse and walking away. You will both feel better if you spend time together to relax. Grooming is a perfect way for you and your horse to forget about the troubles of the day. After a difficult ride just put your frustrations aside, you can tackle the problem again tomorrow.

  24. One of the VERY first things I learned when I first started riding, was that it won’t always be great…but, it is crucial to ALWAYS end on a positive note, no matter how small, it has to be something that you both executed well. I have never forgotten that.

  25. On August 19, 2012, my 17-hand gelding Legs bucked me off into a fence and I suffered a concussion and lacerations on my right arm that later got infected. Apparently, he didn’t like my new spurs. After the emergency room, my husband took me back to the stables to check on Legs and there he was standing in the corner of his paddock with his head down. I’m told he’d been that way all day. I had a conversation with him, patted him on the neck, and kissed him on the nose. I told him that I was sorry and hoped he was too and that he was forgiven. I wanted to climb back on him, but neither one of us was in any condition for that to be a good idea. The next day, I ignored doctor’s orders, cowgirl’d up and got back in the saddle. I was definitely feeling my injuries, so it was only a 10-minute ride and I rode after my riding instructor rode him. I was scared to death, but I would have hated how I felt about myself had I not done it. Seeing him be a good boy for someone else, helped me trust Legs to be good with me too. Apparently, I was yelling at Legs towards the end of my ride and my riding instructor told me never to do that again. I collapsed onto him, gave him a hug, and told him I loved him. I felt him relax beneath me. Have I completely recovered from that bad ride? No, but I’m working on it. Legs is in a training program. I am too. Every time I climb aboard him, I give myself and him one small goal to accomplish together and when we achieve it, we are done. We end on a good, happy, positive note. We have a long way to go, but we are getting there!

  26. I own a seven year old gelding who has more than his share of bad days. But then again, so do I. He may play his bucking games while I grip with my knees, and after these rides and/or lessons I love to spend an extra hour at the barn. It gives me time to reflect on what I need to work on and how I need to be patient. Those bad rides show me that my horse and I need to work harder and soon, we will be able to excel at anything we put our hearts to.

  27. Bad rides are to be expected with my porject paint gelding. I always try to set my goal to my horse’s ability and mood. If he-and/or I- are having a bad day I will lower my goal and work for a nice sustained, supple trot, instead of a canter and ground poles. Once he’s behaving for me I will stop our workout and we will hang out on the ground for a while, just relaxing. This enforces his idea that good behavior equals less work. I love this part because it allows us to get closer and to both reflect on what we were both doing wrong (at least I hope he’s taking in the lesson we had!)

  28. After a bad session in the saddle, I go into my horse’s pasture and just watch him. Just spending time with my horse reminds me that not every ride is bad and that we will always try again tomorrow. It also leaves me with a sense of peace knowing that he and I have established a band where anything is possible.

  29. There are times in my equestrian life, and in every one’s equestrian life, when circumstances don’t go the way I want them to, and much less, the way I planned them. It’s the time with my horse, when we can just ride effortlessly through the fields and woods without worrying about how we are going to perfect those flying lead changes, that refresh and rejuvenate me and my best friend. With renewed freshness and vigor, we can tackle ( and solve!) any problem that life throws our way.

  30. Whenever I have a bad ride, I like to go out of the ring and just walk on the trails. It calms me and tends to calm my horse. When I move onto my next ride, I take a deep breath at the mounting block and imagine leaving my previous ride at the mounting block. Whatever I do, I try to end on a good note.

  31. easy! dream about the great rides we will have and remembering the ones we’ve had!
    … and maybe a little horsin’ around in pasture with my horse too!

  32. After an unsatisfactory ride, I like to reflect on the fun parts of the ride, not the bad parts. it kind of reminds me that riding is like painting. in the beginning, the painting may not look like much. But when it’s finished, you realize that all of that hard work really paid off. And it turns out to be something beautiful.

  33. After a disappointing ride, I like to think that each “bad” ride is a learning experience. Every unsatisfactory ride is one out of how many amazing rides? I think of all the outstanding rides I’ve had, and remind myself that I am riding for the joy of working with my horse. My father always tells me, “It’s like flipping a coin. Maybe you guessed ‘heads’ and it landed on ‘tails’. So maybe you guessed wrong. That’s all right. You can always Flip Again.” I think of the “bad” ride like flipping a coin. I’ll just flip again.

  34. After a not so perfect ride I say to myself, “Okay this is a problem we can work on improving for the better this weekend.” or “Every ride you learn somethng new even if it was a unsatisfactory ride.” And it bosts my confidence to know I’m becoming a better rider from a bad ride. If I’m still upset, I’ll untack my horse and the look on his face when he’s waiting for a treat always brightens my mood.

  35. How do I recover from a tough ride? I shake it off, get back on and go again. I enjoy riding for the ride and the company. The end product is simply a bonus. Every new experience, whether good or bad, helps me to learn to become a better horsewoman.

  36. Wow! No rough ride ever! I’ve been on the ground more times than I’ve been in the saddle; but through all of that I have learned how to sit through a buck, how to stay on when the horse decides to stop from a gallop, I learned how to gallop off of a spook that sent the horse straight home, and I’m currently learning how to fall and roll so it doesn’t hurt. Oh the love of horses!

  37. One of the first horse I started riding on was a 15 year old horse who happened to be bad tempered and just wanted to stay in his nice warm barn. For me I love horses so much it wouldn’t matter if it had no ears or a tail. One day before I mounted I whisper in my horses ear and said”if you behave today ill give you a great big carrot. He behaved wonderfully and he got his reward. He behaved a little better after that knowing what was in store for him.

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