Planning vs Doing With Horses

How do you balance planning versus doing with your horse? 

As a type A personality, I’m prone to lists and lots of them. I like having neat boxes and a clear understanding of what is expected of me. Try fitting horses into a system like that and it’s a recipe for heartache. For me, that has looked like several years of owning horses but not riding them.

Really? You had horses but you didn’t ride them? You heard correctly. I’ve ridden the horses I have now just a handful of times in the past six years. A combination of factors including leaving a trainer and going it alone plus buying unstarted horses has kept me from riding regularly. I say that but truthfully, the biggest battle has been in my mind. You see, after riding for 17 years, I’m not afraid that the horse will hurt me. I’ve started many horses that belonged to other people. I’m finally able to articulate that for the past several years: I’ve been afraid of hurting my horse.


Nibbles in her new pasture while in training

I wonder if anyone else has struggled with something similar. You analyze and plan to death so much so that you become your own killjoy when it comes to horses, riding or whatever it may be. Without my trainer to guide me (and worse, trying to come up with my own guides), I analyzed everything: being in a stall too long, riding too long, riding in certain tack, riding with contact on the bit, riding with a bit at all, everything.

Don’t get me wrong. Asking questions is a good thing! I am a lifelong learner. I’ll never be done. Instead of riding and addressing my horse and my riding that day, I didn’t get on because I was too busy worrying what would happen once I did. My reaction to being Consciously Incompetent was keeping my feet out of the stirrups. If I didn’t ride, I couldn’t mess up my horse, right?

Writing it now it seems silly but it has taken me all this time to understand how wrong that mentality is. My horse profits nothing if I do not ride. For me, sending Nibbles to a new trainer was a big mental release. This decision will hopefully be the beginning to regaining balance in my riding life – and having one again to begin with. In fact, I’m determined that it will be.


Have you ever experienced something similar? Where you spend all your energy analyzing and suddenly find that you’re making excuses not to throw your leg over your horse? Masters don’t become masters by study alone. Masters become masters by studying and spending thousands of hours in the saddle. And yes, they too made mistakes along the way.

I believe that our horses enjoy having a purpose in life and get enjoyment out of human interaction. For me (hullo Type A), I’m happiest when I’m productive. Not to project human feelings onto animals but I’ve witnessed a similar experience with horses in 17 years. They are bored just hanging out in pastures/stalls. They thrive with a job, a purpose. They benefit from structure with bend (and a strong sense of humor!).

"Get my good side!"

“Get my good side!”

I’d love to know if you’ve ever seen or experienced this. I could use the encouragement as I get my brain wrapped around this new reality. How to you toe the line between analyzing and tacking up? How do you balance wanting to do what’s best for your horse with the reality that exists?


11 thoughts on “Planning vs Doing With Horses

  1. Jodi says:

    I’m about the complete opposite of a type A mentality in everything but riding. I went through a stage of overanalyzing everything too and it was affecting my riding. Honestly, what helped me get over it (to a point) is my fiance telling me to stop over thinking and just ride. It annoyed me initially, but it ended up working in the long run.

    • Rebecca says:

      Fiance’s are good for that! Mine told me to focus on the things I know I can affect and stop trying to be responsible for everything. Really helpful once you get over the initial “You know nothing, Jon Snow” 😉

  2. Elinor says:

    I repeat, whenever insecure
    – I’m a doer, not a talker.
    And then I get on.
    And try.
    And the next day again.
    And if I ever feel angry or flustered on top, I try to immediately stop.
    I focus on the easy stuff. Forward. Transitions. No nagging or harsh hands.

    So far is working. I’m having fun. The horses are healthy and happy to come in for work.
    We’re making progress. Only at snail pace.
    But better than just sitting around taking about it 🙂

    Get on!

    • Rebecca says:

      That’s excellent! It should be FUN! I can’t wait to hop on Nibbles and have some of that when I get to go see her mid-month 😀

      • Elinor says:

        Good! Sometimes we can get sort of “stuck”. I know the feeling exactly. I bet you’ll go and see her and feel like a fresh start next time!

  3. Tracy says:

    I struggle with this same thing, although in a different way. I think as adult amateurs it’s good for us to know what we’re capable of, but sometimes more importantly, what we aren’t. Unfortunately, knowing our limits can get in the way sometimes.

  4. emma says:

    oh man – you’re definitely not alone here! my saddle fitter actually encapsulated it well, saying: sometimes a person can get so stuck on finding the perfect saddle that they never actually ride – they’re always saddle shopping. but really, it’s just a saddle and you just have to get in and go for it.

    good luck – and so glad that sending Nibbles out for training is getting you motivated and inspired for more riding 🙂

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