I Suck At Riding, Please Shut Up So I Can Ride Decently

I had a riding set back.

It was ugly.  I was not in a lesson.  I was letting Hudson gallop off some steam.  My trainer walked up to the gate.  Sometimes she gives me pointers here and there, which I love.   I’m curious, I wonder what I’m doing wrong need to improve?

Katherine, who has never gushed in her life, went on and on about how wonderfully I was riding, giving me concrete examples for inspiration.

This sent me over the moon.  I am so happy!  I can ride?  I can ride!  Really?  I. Can. Ride!


Katherine sees my internal response building, and says “you needed to hear it, and it’s true.” I never doubted it’s true.  I’ve never heard her give a compliment that wasn’t earned.

I couldn’t wait to start riding again, so I could do it well again.  Katherine left, drove off, and no one else was in the immediate vicinity.  Hudson politely shifted underneath me, translation: um, hey can we go now?

Can we go?  You bet!  We hit the gas.

What follows is the worst train wreck of a ride imaginable.  Hudson is most excellent. He’s completely ignoring the awful bouncing, jouncing, slithering and pounding that is happening on his back.  Hudson is focused: need. speed.

I’m stiff  and unyielding.  My joints are nearly unbendable.  I confess.  I bounced.  At the canter.  Who bounces at the canter?!  On a horse that willingly gives me his back and trusts me with it.  He gave me his back and ignored the trampoline effect.

It gets worse.  There was daylight.  DAYLIGHT between me and the saddle.  Not a little, proper, easy, hunt-seat daylight, but cartoon character daylight.

Apparently, you can yell at me forever and I’m fine, but compliment me, and I’m instant wreckage.

I ask him to stop.  Glumly, he stops.  I take a deep breath, will myself to relax, count to ten, and cue to pick up the canter again.

Still SUCKING!  I bring him back down again. Breathe.  Focus on settling into the saddle, stretch, picture what it should feel like.  Then I ask him to canter again.

It’s too much for Hudson.  I had promised him a good gallop, and now I’m chopping it into little unsatisfying pieces.  We blast off into an ear-pinning, nose-pointing, ground- eating monster gallop.   I’m slightly behind his movement.  I compound the problem with a green rider error: I try to scootch up to the movement.

(What you think you’re saying: I’m trying to catch up to you.  What horse hears: faster, please!  And quick!)

We rocket into 3rd gear, and I’m further behind.  Any moment now I’ll just slide off his butt.

I smack myself.  I ask him to come back to me: he does, and I slide into the rhythm. Make that bounce into the rhythm.  My brain screams RELAX at me. Hudson, the mind reader, hears SCREAAAAAAAAAAM.  We hit 4th gear.  Because he thinks I’m yelling at him.

What is WRONG with me?  I bring him back down. Hudson is miffed, but too professional to show it.  He contains himself, shuts down, and is all business.  Trots when I ask him to trot.

Okay, that’s it.  Who bounces at the posting trot?!

Despite numerous tries, I can’t pull myself together from the wreckage of being complimented.  I refuse to ride my horse THIS badly.  We cool out.  Tomorrow is another day.

The next day, I lift the dressage saddle up.  Going to gallop in the upper, and then work in dressage in the lower, where the footing is lighter.  I walk on the access road to warm up. After my 400th revolution, Lily stops me.  “You okay?” she asks.

“Yup”, I say, “just warming up.”

It’s been a good 45 minutes.  Lily knows me too well: she looks at me.  Fine.  I confess. Katherine gave me a huge compliment and I totally fell apart and now I’m not afraid to gallop, I’m afraid of SUCKING.

Lily is all business.  “You gotta go.  Right now.  Go gallop.” She looks around. “Everyone is busy, no one will even notice. GO.  I won’t watch.”

I look down at my hands like a kid.

“Don’t make me walk you up there”.

“Okay” I say at last.  “Going.”

She adds the magic words, “Go SUCK!”

And I fly with Hudson as if we were born to gallop together.

Sucking!  Yeah!  WHOOHOO.

Why bother wishing I was normal?  I have friends who know how to deal with my perverse psychological reactions.  I am so lucky.  That could have been a streak of ugly riding.

After Lily left, and I was untacking a sweaty Hudson, another trainer came by.  Casually, in a concerned sort of way, she asked “Did I hear – someone – tell you…you sucked?”  She knows Lily and I are good friends, she’s trying to be tactful. Uncomfortable pause while I try to figure out how to explain my predicament.

She rushes in: “Because you don’t!  I’ve never seen you ride badly.  My kid won Scottsdale because I told her to ride like YOU, remember?” (FYI, her student won Scottsdale because the kid did a great job.)

CRAP.  Not THIS trainer too!  I could weep.  I’m jinxed.  Nooooooooooo.

Her heart was in the right place.  But now I have to overcome the compliment thing again.

Will you all please tell me to go suck at riding?  I’m feeling better, and I should be able to ride soon.  I’d really like to ride well, which I can’t seem to do unless it’s okay to completely suck.

Um, for research sake, does this happen to anyone else?  Does anyone else need to hear a cheerful: go have the worst ride ever?


18 thoughts on “I Suck At Riding, Please Shut Up So I Can Ride Decently

  1. dressage rider

    LOL! Sorry for the late chime in but I’ve had a house full of visiting family and I’m laying catch up.

    I sometimes bounce at the canter. I still bounce at sitting trot. I fall apart at compliments because I’m so excited that I relax all muscles and nearly fall off the horse.

    I’m all in on “GO SUCK”! Yahoo!

  2. Pingback: Welcome to the February Blog Carnival of Horses | EQUINE Ink

  3. theliteraryhorse Post author

    Bless you all! Today, I plan to go forth and suck. Can we have that made into a crest, or coat of arms?
    Go Forth and Suck, In the Name of Good Riding Everywhere.

    And thank you for the suckage encouragement on the blog posts. I fainted when told TLH was mentioned on a COTH thread. I had to beg Liz (of the truly great blog Equine Ink) to PUHleaze tell me my writing sucked. 😉

  4. Winter

    The freedom to suck is the universe’s biggest gift to us.

    Suck on!

    (But I do think it might help to get a few more compliments under your belt – for training purposes)

    Oh yea, and this post was… oh, wait.. Um, it sucked?


  5. Pingback: Riding Technique: The Basics of Posting | Taking care of your pet

  6. Barbara

    That was great! I think it must be a riding thing. I have worked with a couple of different dressage instructors who learned never to say things like “that’s it!” “great, you’ve got it!” “that’s how to do x y z” because it will be six months before they see it again and my immediate response seems to be to bounce, look at the ground and wave my hands around.
    I don’t see people in other sports respond this way. I do see other riders respond this way….nice to meet one more. 🙂

  7. Melinda Faubel

    Go Suck!!!!!!! LOL 🙂 I definitely feel better when someone doesn’t compliment me. I think the one word “good” is all I can handle. Anything else and I just start to fall apart.

    It happens at rides too. After finishing Tevis, I thought “hell yeah that was HARD, instead of hemming and hawing about people congratulating me I’m going to SOAK this up.” Ummm…..I haven’t had a good ride since. I need my mojo back!!!!

  8. Shannon

    I am the exact same way! I can’t take a compliment. For every compliment, I can point out 10 things that are wrong with me and exactly why I didn’t deserve the compliment. But, if you tell me I suck, I take it as a personal challenge to improve whatever it was that I sucked at. It keeps me motivated. Plus, it takes the anxiety away. I already suck, it can only go up from rock bottom! I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with that, but I’m happy with my dysfunction.

    Go forth and suck! 😉

  9. eventer79

    You are terrible! You abuse Hudson with your very presence! When your butt touches the saddle, angels weep!

    There, now you should go win Devon or something… ;-P

  10. Sue

    I suspect this falls in the same category as wishing an actor “Break a leg” before a performance.

    So, while breaking a leg might be a bit extreme, Jane, GO SUCK AT RIDING. Do it crappily. (and have fun)

  11. Marge Coates

    My problem was being told something was easy. That only added shame and defensiveness to my fear. Bad results.

  12. kimberlycreates

    CRAP. Not THIS trainer too! I could weep. I’m jinxed. Nooooooooooo.


    Okay Jane. Go suck at riding.



    I’m actually trying this theory with writing on my site. Next week, I’m going to change the rules a little bit and do just this. Go suck.

    1. Molly

      Yep. I read this entry agreeing with every word. If someone compliments me about anything, riding or otherwise I can’t help but feel a surge of anxiety. All of my faults must be pointed out and my virtues ignored! It is how I learn best. 🙂 I have improved however, as my last trainer was so positive I habituated to the niceness. Maybe that is what you need?

      1. theliteraryhorse Post author

        I did have a trainer once who was wonderful for me. I was moving toward being able to use compliments in a positive way. She’d tell me the correct way to do something, have me try it, not correct me.
        Then have me ride really badly on purpose (slump, legs forward, ragdoll) and then try to do it again properly. Bingo. Twice as good as the first try. I didn’t fall apart if she said “good job”. 🙂


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