Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

Addressing Toxic Positivity: Why Riding At Your Comfort Level Is Perfectly Acceptable

When it comes to performance, mindset is everything. There are a lot of memes out there and accounts perpetuating toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.

The trouble with that is, when you have anxiety, depression, or tend to be an overthinker, being positive is easier said than done. Sometimes you just can’t get out of your own way then feel like you are a failure because you think you should think positively. It’s a vicious circle. 

Truthfully, sometimes we feel nervous or we don’t want to challenge ourselves. Case in point, while riding in Arizona this past January I came to the hard truth that I don’t WANT to gallop across the desert chasing after my friends. I was much happier and relaxed, walking along peacefully and viewing the saguaro cacti. Sure, a canter here and there is fun but that isn’t why I like trail rides. 

Most of my friends feel differently and crave the adrenaline rush and wind through their hair. 

silhouette of person riding horse on body of water under yellow sunset
Photo by Pixabay on

After our trip a close friend of mine offered some advice and it was wise and well-intentioned. She says that I need to do something more to feel comfortable with it, and wouldn’t it be great to all go to Hunter paces together and gallop? 

The problem with that is my goals are not her goals. She is competitive while I am not. I appreciate her support and sometimes, tough love, I think it’s important to note that there are many others who prefer a relaxed hack to connect with their horse and meditate in a way rather than seek the adrenaline rush. 

I certainly have goals and areas where I’d like to improve. My journey has been one of learning horsemanship and building my relationship with Ferrous, and Delight also who is more challenging, to build our confidence and communication.  That certainly translates from the ground to the saddle. 

Ferrous and I have been focusing on trailer loading and going off property again, something we haven’t done since we moved barns. I’m very nervous but miss trail riding with him and look forward to the freedom we will have once we accomplish our goal. Of course, my daughter would also love to show him in competition and we definitely want a calm, focused pony for that! 

I am taking Delight back to basics after he was deemed “unrideable” by his previous owner, trainer, and vet. He is my project horse and because he is more sensitive than Ferrous, he is much more challenging as well- often a mirror for my emotions that I’d rather not face. I have no timeline in mind, our only goal to build a strong bond of mutual respect and enjoy trail riding together. 

My goals are different from my friends. That does not make me less in any way. Will I some day feel more confident galloping the woods with them on a hunter pace? I’m sure I will at some point. But there are a lot of steps in between that will result in my enjoying that rather than dreading it.  

I am perfectly happy riding at my comfort level. I don’t feel like I need to PUSH through something or am holding myself back. Not everyone wants to compete, race, or push themselves to constantly grow. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. This is your reminder that no matter what your goals or comfort level, you have to WANT it for yourself, not for what others might expect. 

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