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Riding Beyond Your Limits: Mastering Mindset in Equestrian Core Beliefs

Silhouette of rider standing forehead to forehead with a horse with the phrase '

I have been spending some quality time with a little girl I thought I knew well.  She is generally happy, with hobbies she loves, especially riding, swimming, art and singing. Like all children there are some things she doesn’t like doing much, but there is nothing she hates. 

I am spending time with her as part of my psychology and mindset training. We have found that, although she is happy, there are some issues that cause us concern.  

  • She has a very talented family member the same age as her, and she has been comparing their performances, and is feeling that she is inadequate because her scores are never as good in school, and she is not as successful in her chosen sports.  It is important to note at this point that I can see that her parents are not putting any pressure on her to match her relatives' performance, the pressure is all from the little girl herself.  Unfortunately this is beginning to cause her to see herself as undeserving of either good performance or praise.

  • Her much loved hobby, horse riding, is not cheap, and her family cannot afford to buy her a horse. She is able to spend her Saturdays at a local riding school, where she is learning all about the many horses and ponies, their individual characters, and how to look after them. She has friends who have their own ponies, and does often feel very sad that she cannot have her own.  This is causing her to feel that without money, she will never achieve anything with horses. 

She is seeing all the things that she cannot do, through no fault of her own, or anyone else. She is beginning to accept that ‘this is just life’.

I have been with this little girl while she is feeling angry and frustrated about these situations, and while she has been broken hearted about the position she sees herself in.

With the training I have been doing I understand how she is developing a core belief that she is not good enough, she sees herself as a ‘backroom’ girl, doing the work, but never earning the glory. She does not blame anyone, she is just accepting this as her place in the world.

What she does not see is how not owning her own pony, but riding all the horses and ponies in the riding school is making her a more versatile rider than her friends who only ride their own pony.  

She is unaware of the people skills she is developing being around all the riding school clients and livery owners, and seeing how the riding school owner manages them.

It will be a long time before she understands the importance of the time she has spent on the big yard absorbing knowledge of horses and horse care.

I now have the important task of helping this little girl see the good points of her childhood, in the hope that the negatives she sees at the moment do not have a defining role in shaping the rest of her life.

Some of you may be wondering why I am writing about a child, even though I have mentioned no names, others may have recognised her already. You see, the child I am writing about is me.

With help from my coaches, I have realised that I have some negative core beliefs that need dealing with.

What is a core belief? 

Core beliefs are the deeply ingrained principles and values that shape how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us, and they can be positive or negative. 

For example, a core belief could be that 'hard work and perseverance lead to success,' which could be reflected in your dedication to training and caring for your horse. This is a healthy, positive core belief.

If you have a negative, or limiting, belief that is hindering your progress or causing distress, you can work on reframing it. For instance, if you believe 'mistakes are failures,' you could reframe it to 'mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning.

In my case, as a child I came to see myself as important behind the scenes, but not deserving of success, or being the ‘star’. Establishing a limiting belief that I was undeserving of success or praise.

Trying to act against your core beliefs can trigger negative consequences. Going against what you truly believe in may result in feelings of guilt, shame, or regret. It can make you question your integrity and authenticity. This conflict with your core beliefs can weaken your sense of identity and purpose, causing confusion, alienation, or loss of direction. Strained relationships may arise, especially if your actions clash with shared values, potentially damaging trust and respect and disrupting communication. Contradicting your core beliefs can hinder your progress towards your goals, leading to self-sabotage, procrastination, and a lack of motivation, impeding your journey towards success and fulfilment.

I now understand that I need to reset my mindset with regard to my core belief that I do not deserve recognition, which is holding me back from promoting myself, and my equestrian skills. As you can see from my comments above I am learning to look at my past, and see the positives I was unable to notice as a child, and using these I am reframing my belief to make it either positive, or irrelevant.

rider doing dressage on chestnut horse with text 'what makes you tick?' and 'is there a core belief that has shaped your life?'

What core belief resonates most with you in your equestrian journey? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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