Rider Insider: Learn from My Mistake

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Running horse
Hey, did you remember to close the pasture gate? Photo: thinkstockphotos.com

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do everything perfectly on the first try when it comes to riding and working with horses? You wouldn’t have to hear your instructor give you the same instructions over and over. There would be no embarrassment in front of the more experienced riders as you struggle to do something that seems to come so easily to them. And certainly, there’d be less time spent on the ground after unexpectedly parting ways with your horse.

Mistakes are a part of life and they’re a big part of the learning process in any activity you pursue. Riding is no different. If you never make mistakes and learn how to correct them, you never learn how to do things the right way.

Sometimes mistakes happen because a skill is challenging to learn. Any experienced jumper will tell you they know what it feels like to jump ahead of their horse or get left behind. Those mistakes are common, but without experiencing what the wrong way is like, you can’t appreciate when you’ve got it right.

Other mistakes are simple errors of judgment. Sure, galloping that last stretch of the field before you get back to the barn seems like fun the first few times you do it. But once you realize you’ve trained your horse to run home from the trails at breakneck speed, you aren’t likely to make that mistake again.

And then there are the silly mistakes. When you arrive in the barn in the morning to find a massive lake next to the trough, you probably won’t forget to double check to make sure you’ve turned off the water before leaving the barn at night.

Riley Polo
You’ve learned from your mistakes. Now share the lesson with your fellow HorseChannel.com visitors. Click “Submit a Comment” below and tell us about a mistake you’ve made in your riding or horsekeeping life and how you’ve learned from it. Some of the editors’ favorite responses could be featured in a future issue of Horse Illustrated!

This month,
Noble Outfitters is sponsoring the Rider Insider column in Horse Illustrated with a prize of a Riley Polo for the selected featured response. If you’d like to be considered for a prize, make sure to include your contact info in the email field of the comment form (emails will not be publicly displayed.)

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39 COMMENTS

  1. My biggest mistake was buying a horse with the same weaknesses as me! Kalo and I both struggle with anxiety. I even considered selling him and getting a different horse, which would have broken my heart. But with time and my trainer’s help, we have both built up confidence in ourselves, and it’s made our partnership even stronger—I know he would do anything for me and I’d do anything for him!

  2. Oh, I love this question, and do I have and answer for you….years ago when my aged Mare had to retire due to a back condition, I started looking for a new mount. I met a young three year old, he was very tall and so handsome I fell in love with him at first site. However, I did not heed any of the advise from any of my advisers and I bought his strictly because he was a really good looking horse. I was not anywhere ready to take on the challenge of a three year old green horse, but I tried. At three he was quite easy to handle but as he grew and got a better handle on me, he realized that he could very easily push me around. I did not have the experience to correct this from the start, things quickly went from bad to worse, I refused to give up. It was only after a terrible accident where I was kicked in the forehead and received 17 stitches and a serious concussion that I understood he was more than I could handle, even with training help, this horse knew I was afraid of him and our relationship spiraled downward quickly. I eventually decided that I loved him, I just din’t like him very much. I found a fabulous home for him at a large show barn, where he had excellent training and lots of support for his new owner. I learned the hard way that it is important to choose a horse within your range of ability. A lesson well learned. There are lots of horses out there, don’t choose on looks alone.

  3. My biggest mistakes, is thinking my horse, knows something, and assuming that he was taught it before I brought him. It confuses him, and makes me wish I would think before asking things of him.

  4. One thing I’ve learned from my mistakes is to watch your feet. There have been a couple of times when I had my horse on a lead rope, then started ignoring him and talking to someone else. Then I don’t see when my horse starts to shift his weight or take a step, and my foot accidently ends up under his hoof. Watching my feet is definitely a lesson I learned the hard way!

  5. Something I’ve learned is never to go by looks and spirit alone,I made the mistake of not riding my horse before I got her and now,she’s a little more than I can handle.She is green in some ways,actually a lot of ways.Thats definitely something I’ll remember for next time.

  6. My worst mistake was turning my horse out in the wrong pasture with another horse that was on single turnout only. I was rushing to make sure this other girls horse got in the right pasture then I thought it was the horse my horse goes out with, but it wasn’t. It was a scary experience because I wasn’t able to prevent anything that might happen, and if it did it would be my fault. After that I became a lot more observant of what was around me and always double checked what pasture I was turning horses out in.

  7. One thing I’ve learnt about riding is not to second guess myself. Sure, I make mistakes but once I’ve decided something I need to stick with it. Nothing confuses a horse more than a rider who can’t make up her mind!

  8. I am a almost a teen and i am training my minis i met my mini Chance last March and it was my first year in 4H and the woman who introduced me to Chance showed me how to handle a horse but her way was yanking down on the lead rope and things like that so i started out like that but then her daughter showed me a different way but i didn’t approve of either ways so i was on my own and Chance trained me. i listened to him and he taught me how i should train. my point is if there is more than one person trying to show you how to train your horse and you don’t approve of it than don’t listen. just listen to your horse and you will have a better training technique than anyone else because it only works on one horse only because every horse has a different personality. i suggest that you watch on Netflix the horse documentary called Wild Horse Wild Ride.

  9. My mistake was being a green rider purchasing a green 2 year old to learn on. I have learned along with him and he has forgiven me for my many mistakes granted he probably doesn’t realize how many mistakes I have made. We are still both learning after 13 years each day is a new experience from just feeding time to when we hit the trails. I learn from each of my horses I learned to listen to what they want.

  10. I was training my almost 4yr old Arabian/Morgan mare how to pull me in a tire behind her in a harness. After a few months of working in just the saddle, she had “forgotten” what pulling’s all about. I didn’t realize that and hoped into my tire as I usually did. She instantly freaked out, galloped full bore down the trail, I fell off and skidded 7 ft, and she ran through a fence, taking half of it with her. All because I didn’t take a precaution and make sure she’d be ok with pulling.

  11. One of my mistakes was when I had tied out my horse to graze. I had been gone for about an hour, and when I came back, my horse was gone. Frantic, I searched for her then stopped short. In the middle of a partially-ripened wheat field, crunching contentedly on wheat stocks, was my little mare (wheat is horrible for horses)! Thankfully she got out unscathed, and I learned to make positive my knots are well-done before I turn my back on my horse.

  12. my horsey mistake was during a lesson, my trainer and I walked into the arena and she told me to mount up when I was ready, so I gathered my reins, put my foot in the stirrup, and started to get on. Well, I kind of forgot to check my girth… I’ll just leave it at I’ll never forget to check again! I finished the lesson (after tightening the girth) red faced but happy I had learned a valuable lesson and thankful no one had gotten hurt!

  13. My horse knows how to ground tie practically anywhere. I doesn’t matter if he’s in the barn with all the doors open wide, in the area or outside riding, he will ground tie. One day I hosed him off outside on the pavement and walked 5 feet away to put away the hose. He seemed to think I gave him permission to walk away. It didn’t take more than 30 seconds to begin walking briskly down the driveway toward the road. Thankfully, he didn’t run away when I went to catch him.

  14. This is a short written comment, but it is true. The number one mistake any horse person could ever make is to mistreat your horse. Having good, loving bond with your horse is the most important thing of all.

  15. I was told to go fetch two draft horses for a trail ride. I had just started riding and didn’t know how hard it was to lead two 1200 pound animals. When I got back from the pasture all I had to show were two halters with leadropes and an empty bucket of treats. It was embarrassing, but I learned to never be afraid to ask for help. This lesson is one of the sole reasons I have become the rider I am today.

  16. Don’t just look for your “dream horse” when shopping.
    I thought my dream horse would be a sorrel quater horse gelding about 8 to 10 years old. Well, after 3 years with my “dream horse,” I realized he was not the right horse for me.
    Turns out my true dream horse was actually a BAY quarter horse MARE who was only FOUR!
    So keep your mind, your eyes, and your heart open. You never know which horse will be THE horse.

  17. I have two minis one is who i talked about in my first comment and my experience with him. my second mini is a colt named Prince Jesus but it is pronounced Prince Hayzuce. His nickname is Zuce and he is three months old i am starting to show him for the first time i was put in charge of training him about four and a half weeks ago i have made the mistake of expecting that he would know more, but i have realized that he doesn’t know that much but he has learned extremely quickly he acts like chance now. Chance and Zuce i have made mistakes on both horses but i have been using my secret technique for my horses both horses are great and they don’t even remember my mistakes.

  18. I’ve learned time and again that losing my temper with a horse is not a worthwhile thing to do. I’ve had bad rides where I really blew my top, and it showed the next time I rode! If I keep my patience and treat the horse lightly and politely, I get a completely different effect that make me so much more content with my ride.

  19. My biggest mistake is losing my temper. You will always always regret getting angry with your horse. Stay calm and carry on, doing whatever is needed to fix the problem with kindness and firmness. My second biggest mistake is not using Clinton Anderson’s Method (DownunderHorsemanship) when I first bought my horse. My horse has changed so much in the several months, I can’t imagine how she would be if I had invested that much time and energy into her 5 years ago. Get a good training DVD, book, etc., and make it happen. A horse won’t magically turn into a well-trained horse sitting there in the pasture. Just do it. 🙂

  20. My biggest mistake is sometimes not keeping my cool at horseshows.sometimes I get upset when my horse gets nervous or acts up. I’m making it my goal to always be cool and calm during my shows. I know it works better than getting worked up because at my very first show, my horse was freaking out in a flat equation class, he wasn’t standing still, spooking, and he decided to prance around the ring instead of line up.however because I kept my composure, we placed first! It’s way better for your relationship with your horse if you’re calm and reassuring instead of upset, I know it works so that’s why it’s my mission to stay calm at shows this year!

  21. One day while in the show-ring, I became more worried about everyone else and not about me and my horse. So when a rider lost control of her horse and galloping around the ring instead of a collected lope – I became focused on her and trying to stay out of her way – forgetting about my horse and before I knew it i was in a pack of riders who was doing the same thing – paying attention to the rider in trouble and not everyone else. We all got in trouble then and nearly collided with each other and my horse spooked along with others. Luckily no rider or horse was injured but lesson learned. First- pay attention to what’s in front of you and where you are going. Second – your horse and how he is reacting and Last what is going on behind you.It was a scary lesson I will never forget.

  22. this is not a mistake i have made i would just like people who get frustrated at horse show to read this comment. I have two minis and one is a stallion colt. the other named Chance is the first mini i started showing what do if i don’t place in a class that i have participated in after i come out of the ring i crouch down and i speak very softly to my horse and i say ” its all right boy, it’s not your fault. it’s okay don’t worry boy your not in trouble. ” i speak to my horse because i train him more by words than by actions. he understands the words i say to him like when i pick out his hooves when he tries to bite me all i have to say is don’t and he won’t bite me i say that to my horse because i read his emotions and he becomes sad. when he is sad he puts his ears down and his head down. so speak to your horse and don’t make them feel like they are a disappointment to you!

  23. My biggest mistake is getting too nervous before going into the ring. I show Percherons and have recently moved into senior youth classes, and I have to show a younger horse, which generally means a different yearling each year. I let myself get very nervous, and the filly picks up on that and acts up. It also affects my performance, especially in decorating if my hands are shaking. Afterwards, I see that getting nervous did nothing, but it still happens the next time.

  24. I was in a hunter hack class, and it was the last class of the day. I was jumping first, and my horse Tango and I jumped it perfectly. He was calm and collected. Then he did part 2 (the flat) and he listened to every command. We lined up and I was sure I was first. Then, I won last because I was on the wrong lead. What a bummer- and next time I’ll try to focus on even the basics!

  25. My mistake was at one point, I thought I knew it all. And for a long time I lived thinking that and one day, my lesson horse decided to show me I didn’t and I got hurt. I changed barns and I now ride a different horse who shows me that no matter how much you think you know (And that every moment you spend with your horse you are teaching them weather you know it or not!!), you will never know it all and we are always learning, and that yes, we will make mistakes now and then! But don’t get discouraged; learn from them and try harder next time!

  26. One thing that I have learned is that you can’t be wimpy. I let a horse run out if the same jump about six times before I finally made him jump over it. It was so good to finally get over the jump that I decided that from then on, if I had to, I would be mean.

  27. Relatively new to the horse world, my son and I were taking our mare to a large show 70 miles away. Loaded up with no problem, arrived to the show with no problems, only to find out she had thrown a front shoe. Lucky for us, there was a farrier there, but he had no shoes to replace the thrown one. He did pull her other shoe (she only had two front shoes on) so she was not uneven for the rest of the weekend. Lesson learned: check horse hooves before loading.

  28. I lost my temper with my horse one day while we were trail riding. He refused to stand still when I asked him to stop, and the behavior was getting out of control. I asked him to do circles to try to regain control, but I “asked” more and more aggressively until we were involved in a silent shouting match. He jigged over to a tree, used a low hanging branch to knock me out of the saddle, and then sped off for home. As I cooled off on my twenty minute walk to the stable, I realized that a partnership is a process. Now, when we have a bad day, I keep my temper, and praise him for what he did right – even if that means walking a circle on a longe line!

  29. I learn from my mistakes just in daily lessons. When I am in a lesson learning something new can take me a few minutes to grasp, but by the end of the lesson I have always learned something new and helpful to help me along in my life and with my horse!

  30. The biggest mistake I ever made was getting frustrated with my horse and letting him know! I was angry at a person at the barn and I realized that my horse couldn’t handle me being rough with him because of my issues. Now I have made a rule for when I ride- if I am frustrated with someone or something, I will not ride that day. Instead, I will spend quality time with my horse and calm myself down. Owning a horse has made me a better person. My horse is always so patient with me!

  31. Just because someone says that the hay they’re selling is horse-quality doesn’t mean that it is. I found an ad on craigslist for hay that was $2.50 a bale, and planned on getting about 40 bales. I drove 45 minutes to get to the farm selling it, and was very disappointed. Most of the bales were yellow, dusty, and moldy. I didn’t want to go home empty handed, and would have felt bad for the man selling it, so I bought a few bales to make it worth the effort. I brought the bales home, hoping that they weren’t too bad to use, but when I opened one bale, I found it was full of weeds and even a few poisonous plants! So, I now have $50 worth of fertilizer for my garden….

  32. I been riding most whole life. When I got older someone told me, “the only way you can make it in this business is by having money.” At that point I wanted to quit. I grew up with little money and having to work off lessons. My trainer told me that you can either buy your way to the top or work your way to the top. I am growing as a rider and can’t wait to continue to work and work/earn my way up.

  33. I realized quickly that it’s okay to get frustrated but you can’t for long. I learned that sometimes when things are going wrong, take it slow. My instructor makes me earn time in the saddle but working with the Horse on the ground. What I didn’t know was that horses like it slow. I used to ride at a barn were everything was quick. Now at this new barn, horses and people take it easy. My instructor isn’t as picky about time and feels that it’s more important to have an understanding. Take a breath and earn the horse’s trust.

  34. My biggest mistake would be not keeping my cool before dressage. I event and I am always super nervous before the dressage phase. At my last show I finally realized that I needed to trust my horse and that there was no reason to be nervous. My horse has gone through training level and I was only competing at beginner novice. I went into the ring totally calm that day and everything went beautifully. I scored in the high 20s and came home from the event with a blue ribbon!

  35. I have definitely made a bunch of mistakes, but the biggest one would have to be leaving my passion for another sport. I then realised that my heart would truly always be wherever a horse was. I had given up on my dream. I have all of those lost years to make up for now!

  36. My biggest mistake was letting my guard down; i assumed i knew what i was doing and that i could relax. I know there is always more to learn about ridingvand that i don’t know it all but I let myself relax and payed for it with a broken stall door, numerous cuts, and a very angry trainer. I thought my horse was calm but i now know that when i have my thoughts somewhere else, that is the perfect chance for a naughty horse to play his tricks! And this goes for all aspects for riding; attention sways and bam, you’re in the dirt. I dont think i have ever been more focused in my riding and ground work!

  37. At the barn where I rider there is this one gelding who seems to hate moving any faster than a slug. For years I’ve been nervous and wimpy when riding him, especially when we jump. But then, just a few weeks ago, I resolved to be the boss. That lesson was amazing and I realized that he was an awesome horse, and that the only problem between us had been me. Now he’s one of my favorite horses, and I have much more confidenence around lazier horses.

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