Perfectionism: My Best and Worst Trait as a Rider

One of my best traits as a rider comes from being a perfectionist. I am very reflective and insightful, and I want to be able to understand why everything in my ride happens and the tools I can use to fix any problems that may arise. I strive to achieve perfect distances and transitions, and to feel those perfect moments of suppleness, roundness and rhythm throughout every ride.

However, one of my worst traits as a rider also comes from being a perfectionist. I pick way too much in my riding because I want every distance, transition, or movement to be perfect. I am a soft rider, but too often I find myself picking with my hands because I am trying to make everything perfect. I want to be in total control of how everything will go.

I even struggle writing these blog posts because of my need for every detail to be perfect. Anyone who is a perfectionist knows that it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s often hard to just let things go. My perfectionism leads to my high expectations, which I also struggle with.

The other day, I just could not get a good, round, forward right lead canter. It has always been the weaker side for me in the canter, and it is easy for me to get frustrated by it. The other day, though, I ended up getting so frustrated that I just kept cantering in 20 meter circles with nothing changing. I didn’t use my tool box; I didn’t stop and think about what was going wrong and how to fix it. I just kept cantering because I was getting moments of a good canter, so I guess I figured that it would get better if I just gave it one more circle. Except one more circle turned into another circle. And another. I felt so bad afterwards, and I realized that sometimes I need to just quit while I’m ahead.

On the other hand, I need to have high expectations. I need to be asking for more than just one moment of correctness. If I have one perfect circle, I need to keep going to understand the feeling more so that I can get it the next day, too. This is key for muscle memory for both myself and Murphy.

Finding a balance between perfectionism versus letting go and high expectations versus quitting while you’re ahead are two things that I’m still grasping the concept of. I think that I am starting to get better at knowing when it’s worth it to keep going and when I need to ask for more from my horse, and I’m catching myself when I start picking. But I’m still looking for those perfect moments and savoring them to let my body absorb exactly what those moments feels like. I hope that soon I will be able to fully be aware of the fine line between these two seemingly intangible concepts.

To become better at finding a balance between perfectionism and high expectations, I need to ask myself questions like, “Is this really worth the extra time and effort I’m putting in?” Or, “Will this really get any better if I just keep pushing through or should I start fresh tomorrow?” Like I said before, I am a thoughtful rider, but sometimes the negative side of my perfectionism kicks in and just wants it to be perfect at all costs. I need to set reasonable and attainable expectations for Murphy and myself, so that I don’t get lost trying to accomplish a big goal in one ride. I have to be willing to celebrate the small victories along the way, instead of thinking that I got nothing accomplished in a ride if I didn’t solve every single one of our issues.

One thought on “Perfectionism: My Best and Worst Trait as a Rider

  1. I too benefitted and suffered from perfectionism, but eventually found the balance you speak of in this blog and learned to “let go” and accept the small imperfect victories knowing that my performance was still beyond the norm. Let it come to you; it will happen.


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