Migrated Other Riding

Daring to Suck

making mistakes is expected
Written by Andrea Parker

Daring to suck… It’s a seemingly bizarre concept that resonated deeply with me. I was listening to one of my favourite podcast’s (check it out here https://summerinnanen.com/frr-37) when I stumbled across this idea.

So what does ‘daring to suck’ actually mean? In a nutshell, it means giving something a go even if there is a possibility of not pulling it off, not getting the outcome you were after, or failing. For me, daring to suck is an action which is in direct opposition to fearing failure.

Why is this important? As someone who identifies as having perfectionistic tendencies, I can see how my fear of failure has held me back at times. Whether it be something as simple as not riding that movement that is tricky and feels super uncomfortable or not entering that competition because you might make a mistake. Looking back, I can also see that my fear of failure kept me competing at prelim/novice level for way longer than necessary. I wanted everything to be perfect when I took the step up to prelim. This is a real problem because life is not perfect, particularly when you add a horse into the mix.

Over the last two years, I feel that I have become much better at embracing imperfection. Here are some things that I feel have helped me along in this journey:

Understand why things feel uncomfortable.

For me one of the most useful things in understanding this was understanding the four stages of learning. The first stage is unconscious incompetence (that is we don’t know anything about what we cannot yet do). The second stage is conscious incompetence (we know what we can’t do). The third stage is conscious competence (we know the skills needed and we can use them but a high degree of concentration is required). The fourth and final stage is unconscious competence (we are able to apply the skills effectively with little conscious effort being required). Sure, there are times when something that is normally effortless becomes incredibly hard. But for the most part discomfort comes about when we are learning a new skill. I’ve found it particularly useful to link discomfort in my riding with the understanding that I am learning something new and growing.

Push yourself to do things which are uncomfortable, but not unsafe.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘comfort zone’, the ‘learning zone’ and the ‘danger zone’. We have to learn to balance the need to push ourselves beyond our established skills. However, we also need to be mindful that we do not push too far and create a dangerous situation. In doing this having a coach who knows your level of skill and can push you is invaluable. Get to know what it feels like when you are working within the growth zone. For me things feel uncomfortable, challenging and requires a lot more conscious effort, but it never feels unsafe.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Perfection it doesn’t exist anywhere. Even less so when you bring an animal with its own thoughts and feelings into the picture. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Whether that is trying a different exercise, playing around with the timing of your aids or even seeking the input of a different coach. A few years ago, Nonie and I got to a stage where we could barely ride a 20m canter circle despite having compete successfully competed at novice and prelim. With limited access to dressage coaches in the area, we struggled along on our own for several months. Rides would frequently end up with me in tears and questioning my ability as a rider. I eventually contacted one of the local western trainers who had a good reputation. She helped Nonie and I make some changes that greatly improved our straightness, Nonie’s obedience and my confidence to lead. Her strategies worked even though they were not classical dressage.

The dressage coach that I train with now lives about 800km away, so we get her up to run clinics once every couple of months. In between clinics I am training on my own. This sometimes means that I have to use my knowledge and skills to figure things out on my own. Sometimes this means that I make mistakes or do things that don’t work. What I have learnt that it is much better to make a mistake than trying the same thing over and over and expect a different result. And generally we get things to a point where they start to improve.

So join me in embracing imperfection. I’d love to hear about a time when fear of failure has held you back and how you have dared to suck!

To read more on this topic check out my post, “I’ll be a good rider when”.

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About the author


Andrea Parker

Andrea is an Adult Amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on an equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse.


  • Great post, the first few hunter derbies I tried were terrifying because I knew there were some great horses and rider entered, but I am so glad that I pushed myself to try!

  • This part right here – “Nonie and I got to a stage where we could barely ride a 20m canter circle despite having compete successfully competed at novice and prelim”.
    Really resonated with me.
    It’s the incredible difficulty with training a young horse.
    I can relate to this ALL the way. My mare is not yet 6, and things are NOT a dance on roses at all time.

    If you’re ever looking for blogging material, this would be the post I’d like to read – overcoming various hurdles and “plateaus” in the training.
    For us they seem to pop up often 🙂