Every Setback is a Setup for a Major Comeback
It happens to all of us. As equestrians we know that setbacks are bound to happen. We also know we have to get past them somehow, but how? As I am in the middle of creating a “comeback week” for myself, this blog is an attempt to plan how to go back to the barn and get back in the saddle after a major setback.
I have been thrown, kicked and bitten by horses more times than I can count. Yet, it still shocks me how hard it often is to make that first approach to a horse that hurt me. Instead of letting the experience scare me or hold me back, I’ve learned to look at how I can try to prevent the situation in the future.
Was there something I did that may have set the horse off?
Was I using water that was too cold in the wash rack?
Should I have lunged her before getting on that day?
More often than not, there was something controllable that made the horse react that way.
Accepting fault and learning from the mistake is usually the first thing I try to do to help me move on.
As hard as it is, when something happens you have to learn from it, but you can’t let it make you paranoid. You can’t get back on that horse after being thrown, holding onto the belief that she will do it again, because the horse will feel that negative energy and is likely to become nervous too. When getting back on a horse it's important to change the situation, it can be as easy as lunging first or making sure to lock the arena gate, and then proceed in a normal way as possible. Sometimes it’s about taking a few simple steps to help prevent bad things from happening again.
But I’ve learned that it’s not that easy with the other type of mistakes. How does someone enter the show pen after making a big mental mistake, or suffering a major loss? It is sometimes harder than getting over any physical pain. As far as bites, kicks and minor bucks; ice and aspirin can often heal most of those, but there is no quick fix for mental agony. The flashbacks, the instant replay and the thoughts that keep me awake at night as I wonder what if I did that one little thing differently.
Would I have been successful?
Would I have won?
I am the first person to overanalyze what went wrong in the show pen, what I did wrong, see the mistakes first. I will compulsively replay show videos to find mistakes, forgetting all the good in the ride. But eventually it has to stop.
I’m learning that you have to move on. You definitely have to note what you did and vow to try and never make that same mistake twice, but then you have to ‘get back in the saddle’.
Every day is a new day and every ride is a new opportunity to get better. Every horse show offers a clean slate and a chance to build on past rides and succeed with this new ride. You can’t go into a ride thinking about all the times it went wrong, you have to focus on what you will do to make this one go right.
Finally, when dealing with either mental or physical pain, it’s important to not let any setback make you become timid. Remember why you started riding in the first place. Your love of horses – and their love of us, can overcome even the biggest fall – whether it was physical or emotional. One of my favorite quotes is “Every setback is a setup for a major comeback”, a quote I’ll say to my horse – and myself - the next time we ride into the arena.
Stay posted to see if I can make this week a true “comeback week.” I know we’ve all overcome setbacks at the barn or in the arena and I’d love to hear about yours. Please share in the comments section!