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 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. 

Haskell Addressing Toxic Positivity Equestrian Sport
One of my favorite photos from when I attended the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Racetrack.

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. 

Top Tips to Safely Trail Ride Alone

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! 

Addressing Toxic Positivity in the Equestrian Sport

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 horses 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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  • Joyce Bloemker

    I love this! I think I’m ready to push my comfort level a little bit. I’ve been in the same place for a long time. I have a couple of things planned that will push me out of my comfort level a little bit over the next three months! But there is also nothing wrong with staying where you are comfortable. I’ve been riding my horse for thirteen years so I am very comortable and confident with him, but even my mare who I’ve been riding for over ten years I can get nervous with her. As long as you’re having fun and being safe, I see nothing wrong with going slow!

  • Maaike Faber - van Burik

    Finally someone I can connect and relate to.
    I’m going on gut feelings and careful preparation when it comes to horses. My journey with my horse is long.. like 2 years and just started riding. He’s a dominant pushy horse, so he’s teaching me a lot! I’m glad to hear that being timid can be a good thing, being an over thinker can a good thing. It makes us listen to our horses. I just need a bit more confidence and presence.
    I hope these books will help!

    • Heather Wallace

      Welcome! I know all about a dominant pushy horse- that sounds exactly like Delight. I think confidence comes with time and experience- but most of all trust in your horse. That has to be earned and it sounds like you are taking the slow and steady approach. My favorite. 🙂

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