Perfectionism in Training

After a great morning of riding training horses, I drove down to Hartman Arkansas for a Body Control Clinic.  During my drive, I listened to a new podcast called Finding the Feel.  (Here is the link if you want to check it out!  This is a great podcast guys, I highly recommend it if you are into the western performance world at all.

One of the trainers interviewed was Sandy Collier.  Among many other titles, Sandy was the first, and so far only woman to ever win the NRCA Snaffle Bit futurity.  Which is quite a thing.  Sandy described herself as being a recovering perfectionist.  Which I can so relate to – in the way I train, ride, show my horses, and in my life in general.

Another trainer interviewed, Million Dollar NRHA trainer, Jason Vanlandingham, talked about how in his early days of showing, he micromanaged his horses to death in the show pen and could’t just put his hand down, trust his training, and show his horses.  He had the training process correct at home, but being afraid to trust his horse was initially impeding his ability to win at the shows.

All of this got me thinking about perfectionism and how it relates to, or rather, interferes with our horses learning process.

Being a perfectionist can:

cause you to over drill on exercises

Wanting things to be perfect can cause a rider to rush the process.  Every good trainer knows that a rushed horse is going to eventually go backwards in their training. The shortcut taken, or the extra pressure put on, will cause the horse to relate anxiety to the maneuver.  A relaxed, methodically trained horse will out preform an anxious,

rushed horse every time.  Ironically, a relaxed horse will learn faster and retain knowledge for longer, than an anxious horse.


cause you to over pressure yourself 

Not only can your horse become over pressured, it’s likely you are mentally over pressuring yourself.  Learning to trust the process and chip away at your goals one day at a time will give you a better product in the end and you will have more fun during the process!  Having big goals is great, but another concept from Sandy is to do the best with the horse, the environment and the situation you have that day.  And build from there.

cause you to micromanage your horse

If you don’t trust your horse to preform the job, your horse will eventually turn his brain off and just let you drag him through all of the maneuvers.  You may be able to get away with this for a while, but the overall picture will be a horse that is heavy on your hands, heavy on his front end and always late on engaging an obstacle or working a cow.  You want your horse’s mind engaged so they understand their job with minimal cueing from you.

So as a rider/trainer, take a breath.  Trust the process. Build the next small success on the last one.  And most importantly let your horse make mistakes so he can learn his job and be the partner you always wanted.

I’m very much looking forward to a great clinic tomorrow with a fabulous group of women!  We will keep you all posted!  Included are some photos of Horsehead Stables where my clinic is being held.  Beautiful facility.

-Ashley Purdin