3 Reasons Why Everyone Else is Progressing in Their Riding and You Are NOT

backwards thinking comparing yourself neurochemical pathways Sep 10, 2022


It is becoming a common theme. And I’m not ok with it! I can’t tell you how often clients come to me and tell me they are not having fun in the sport. If things don’t change quickly they say, they will quit. They share with me, that everyone around them is progressing, except for them. Sound familiar?!  

For years they’ve felt stuck at the same level, in the same lesson, jumping the same height, and dealing with the same performance anxiety at the shows. Hm? What is the common denominator here? No, it is not “THEM.” It’s “THE SAME.” Sadly, I think a few more of you relate then you want to admit to. But, stick with me on this one, maybe 1 of my 3 explanations will help you dive deep and better identify what is keeping you “stuck.”

The reason you feel “stuck” is because you keep taking the same route from A to Z, ignoring all other options.. What about starting at E and going to A instead? Regardless the route, you are not activating your performance so you can adjust accordingly to excel towards the achievements you desire. When you understand how this all works the formula brings shifts in your performance, but because you don’t know how the brain works, instead

you gravitate towards trendy mindset band-aids 
in desperation with little to no success.

Trendy band-aids that actually have not only been misconstrued in translation, but also don't apply to you.

What happens instead is that you unintentionally FUEL the same results. The results you are so over. What has happened is that you have just perfected the same behaviors (insert the behaviors you are struggling with.) Here is what I mean by that. If you jump and the issue is your anxiety, well with the band-aids you have just inadvertently perfected that anxiety that comes with keeping you jumping the same height over and over again. You haven’t developed new neurochemical pathways.

Then, you begin to blame yourself because you begin to take it personally. I mean, everyone else is excelling and you’re not, it must be you. Which just adds fuel to the fire, but that is not the issue.

The only benefit of blaming yourself, is that yes it will make you feel terrible about yourself resulting in you quitting, and you will quit, prematurely without getting any help. This is all preventable. All of it. If you want my opinion not that you are asking, but I am assuming since you are reading this that you want it, you have willingly obliged to staying SMALL by not accepting that you need support.

You hire a horse trainer, right? You take lessons, right? You wouldn’tgo to a horse show without your trainer, right? So, why do you think you don’t need a professional to help you with the mental side? You need help. Not because you are flawed, but because you don’t have the tools. Please read that sentence again and let that set in real deep. And if you are too lazy to reread it, then here it is again my friend slightly different; “...because you don’t have the tools, not because you are flawed.”

I won’t bore you with all the science but this is important. Here goes. Your brain lives off these electrical charges that help your brain function optimally and expand. And over time if the same chemical charge gets activated it makes a neurochemical pathway which translates into a behavior.

Here is my own metaphor to describe it.

Let’s say you are walking along a path. Suddenly you see a lake and you want to go to it, but there are no paths to it. So, you have to create one by walking through the bushes. Twigs break, the grass flattens, stones are moved, etc. It’s a lot of work, you actually get a ton of foliage stuck on you, had to dodge some major brush, etc. But, you make it. And you love the lake, because it’s incredible. You turn around and head back on the same path you just created. This time, it’s a bit easier because you deliberately place your feet where you stepped before. The next day, you decide you want to go back to the lake. And the next day after that, taking the same exact path. Every day your footprints begin to leave a clear designated trail to the lake.

It’s the same with the patterning of your brain and creating new patterns of ideas that lead to potential.

You have to have a thought first. Then you have to nourish that thought deliberately to repattern your brain. When you repattern your brain with new thoughts you have to repeatedly tread on it, to create the trail that leads to the destination you want. If you do it once and only once, the foliage of other thoughts (the thoughts you don’t want) will just continue to grow. It’s simple really. But, hard in theory, because it requires discipline, tools, and knowledge.

The funny thing about the brain, is that everyone thinks they are an expert or can become their own expert.

But, let me ask you this: you need to get heart surgery- are you going to choose the expert MD who has years of practice and specializing or are you going to choose the person that’s an intern and never completed a surgery, BUT HAS READ A BOOK? You’d be dumb and stupid, sorry to be so blunt, but you would be if you chose the intern. I think everyone would question your level of decision making, including you, no?! That method of thinking applies here too. Oprah has coaches. Tony Robbins has coaches. I have coaches.

A ton of people have coaches, don’t be fooled by the silence.


The thing is, and this is what will blow your mind, but please just stick with me. You believe that your lessons and riding are where ALL the work EXCLUSIVELY should be done. Let’s shine a light on this idea that is so backwards. That’s a whole lot of expectation both in quality and quantity for 1 hour lesson. You should be doing the work outside of the saddle, to prepare you to come to your lesson at your best in that very moment.

You have a responsibility, and please excuse me if this rubs you the wrong way which I hope it does, but you have a responsibility to your horse and trainer to come mentally prepared.

And by that, I mean, to have worked on your issues that surface in your riding. To leave all the "life junk" out of the arena as much as is possible, so you are close to as focused as you can be in that moment (obviously you will have better days than others.)

We all have stress and issues. I work every day on my issues of anxiety. Some days are more successful than others, however, if I don’t, it shows in my performance.

Anxiety stops you from learning by turning off key parts of your brain that are relevant to memory, processing information, following directions, integrating new information, and more.

If you are expecting your trainer to teach, then you should also expect yourself to be primed to be taught. If you are expecting your horse to optimally perform no matter the day, then you should also expect yourself to be at your optimal for your horse as well.


Every top athlete practices the basics. In truth, they over practice the basics to make that one movement beyond well-learned to the point of unconscious memorization. And when it is to that degree, the muscle memory is so fine-tuned that it is perfectly executed under any and all conditions. And if it is not, an issue will reveal itself in competition. And again... they will spend hours fine tuning that movement.

Now, let’s apply this to us amateur equestrians who have lives, families, and obligations. We can’t spend hours. It is absolutely not realistic. Nor do we have endorsements deals that pay us a nice living wage. Nor do we have the pressure either to perform under certain expectations and at a certain level. So... because we are not them, then we should not use their techniques and learn from them? That there is your biggest mistake. The ME versus THEM. 

It is called comparing yourself. You do it all the time. It’s so annoying to me and makes me so irritated for you. Why? Because then it spirals you into this anxiety ridden self-deprecating dialogue that serves no one, no purpose, but to make you feel small. Whether you compare yourself to the elites and say, I am not one of them, I will never be them, I can’t be them, you close yourself off from learning and opportunity. You do the same in group lessons, comparing yourself to your friends and fellows simply because they are in the same lesson as you.

And consequently, you erroneously
make the assumption that you are even comparable! 

There are so many factors that make you completely different and incomparable, so stop. Once you understand this, you can finally ride in your own lane, fully and with ownership. And once you do that, then you are OPEN to learning. To observing and learning what works for others who are better at it than you are.

It disenables capacities that allow for integration of knowledge and enhancement of performance, because you are focused on something entirely unrelated, “comparing.” The choice is yours.

Intern or heart surgeon? Discipline or sidelines? Your lane or someone else’s? Simple choices. Simple decisions. But, with a cost. Effort.

Effort that will feel so freakin’ amazin’ when you start experiencing the results. And at that point, the effort doesn’t even feel like much of a burden, instead it brings relief and gratitude, because you are expanding and it feels freakin' amazin'.

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