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The Equestrians Guide to Motivation

motivating, or spoiling, a horse
Written by Andrea Parker

What is motivation?

When we enter the world of horses we are seized as Ralph Waldo Emmerson says ‘by a grand passion’. It is the thing that gets us up at all hours of the morning, that sees us mucking out stables, weeding paddocks all weekend long, cleaning tack, scrubbing horses, coming home at all ours of the night and spending every spare bit of time we have learning more. This is one important ingredient of motivation, the other is the insatiable drive to improve and grow.

I caught up with fellow equestrian bloggers, Charlotte, Lindsey, Sophie and Heather to get their take on motivation.

Motivation to me, is that fleeting feeling of hunger that you get when you start making progress towards your end goal, and really it’s a vital ingredient in the recipe of getting from where you are to where you want to be. 

Charlotte Sinclair Stanley (potentiallyadequate)

For many, like Lindsey, riding can be the ultimate tool for unwinding at the end of the day, however Sophie touches on the very important point of recognising when it is and is not the right time to ride, motivational issues aside. Sophie says, “If I have had a very busy and stressful day in the office, riding doesn’t always provide a release, and knowing when to NOT ride is important, otherwise I can end up more frustrated and negative towards whatever it is I’m trying to achieve.” Over time, I too have become aware of the counterproductive nature of riding when my stress levels are high. It’s important for each rider to be aware of how this impacts them individually.

When does motivation suffer?

I think every equestrian struggles with motivation at some point, thus my tongue in cheek book, Equestrian Handbook of Excuses. I don’t own a horse yet, so my time at the barn is dear. Very little prevents me from spending time with horses. That being said, I don’t always feel like pushing myself in the saddle, and can struggle with that pretty frequently. I’m self-critical and often get in my own head.

Heather Wallace (bridleandbone)


For the majority of my adult life, my motivation has been boundless, even without the prospect of a competition on the horizon. Like an addict seeking a high, I would chase the feeling, that moment of perfection, that was motivation enough to see me swinging into the saddle day after day. In 2015, after a massive year of competing, I found my motivation flagging – I was ready for a change, I just wasn’t aware of it.

A lack of progress, or even feeling like we are going backwards in our riding and training can led to a reduction in motivation. Lindsey notes that forgetting her love for the sport, and an over focus on goals will make her time with her horses feel stale.”

Heather touches on the impact that negative experiences, such as a scary spook or a bad fall, can have upon not only our confidence, but also our motivation. “Sometimes getting myself to the barn is the biggest hurdle”, she says.

What can we do to build our motivation back up?

In talking to my fellow bloggers, two common theme’s emerge, goal setting and hitting ‘refresh’.

When it is a good time to ride, & I aim for 5 times a week, I think about my goals – what is it that I want to achieve? There is very little point aiming for the end goal, if it’s likely to be a big step, so I chunk down into much smaller steps to work towards, and on a day that.

Sophie Tunnah (teamtunnaheventing)

Goals can be a powerful tool when used well, they are intimately linked to progress, and it is progress upon which so many us thrive on. Lindsey says, “I start to dream. I re-evaluate new goals, or a new approach to goals, for me and the horses. I ask myself, how do I want to grow as a rider in the next few months? How do I want to develop the horses in the next few months? I visualize the outcome and grow excited, then I’m quickly ready to jump in.”

Charlotte takes goal setting to another level with vision boards, and says that “Creating vision boards that represent all of the things that you want to be, that you can be if you work hard enough is a great way to keep inspired. Whether you cut out words and photos from a magazine or create a collage and keep it as your background on your computer or phone, keeping a constant reminder of your ideal future will almost guarantee you motivation in the present.”

I need time on a new trail or swimming in the river with the horses every so often. Those experiences make me feel alive. Going too long without them just deflates my spirit a bit. The funny thing about life-giving adventure is that you often have to plan for it, make time for it. For example, this weekend I’m trying my first bareback trail ride. I have no idea how it will go, but I’m confident in the partnership I’ve built with Chip, and I know certainly that I will grow and learn a whole lot. 

Lindsey Rains (altamirahorsemanship)

We all agreed that placing too much pressure on yourself and your horse can be detrimental and that taking some pressure off and giving yourself some time can be really valuable. Heather says, “I still ride, but I don’t put any pressure on myself to meet certain standards. A trail ride, a walk in the paddock, or even just grazing Delight can usually help me to reset.” I’m a huge fan of this approach too, back at the end of 2015 when my motivation took a hit, Nonie and I got out on the beach and I re-learnt to ride bare back.


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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.