Become A Stronger + More Resilient Rider: Steal My 6-Step Framework

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Let me be real with you. I don’t get a lot of clients where everything is going perfectly well for them. They love their trainer. They love their horse. They love every freaking thing about their life with horses. 

Now, they get there in the end, but in the beginning I get a lot of questions about pain, struggle, and overwhelm. So I wanted to address some of them here, because there’s a good chance you’ve wondered about some of these yourself. 

"How can we recognize when the challenges we're facing in our riding journey are becoming too overwhelming?"

"What is the best way to handle the trauma from a bad fall or a negative experience with a horse?"

"How do you know if the pressure to improve is helping you grow or just causing unnecessary stress?"

"What are the signs that it's time to take a break from riding to heal physically or emotionally?"

"How can riders differentiate between normal setbacks and serious issues that need professional attention?"

These are all great questions! And in today’s newsletter, I’m gonna knock ‘em all out with a deep dive into the psychology behind hurt, healing, and resilience. Let’s send it!

As western riders, we’re seeped in this ethos that pain is good. That we need to struggle, and struggle isn’t fun or good.

Billy Gardell Pain GIF by CBS

Let’s QTP - question the premise. 

Too much pain and you’re gonna feel helpless. You’ll have trauma above my pay grade and need a psychologist to help you work through it. But is too little pain any better? Without any struggle, is there meaning? Can it lead to entitlement from getting something you didn’t “earn”? 

I think internally we all understand the idea that there’s a “right”, or more helpfully put, a helpful and productive amount of struggle when it comes to achieving our goals. We all know how sweet the victory tastes when you worked your ass off with your horse and are finally making progress. It really does add layers of meaning and self-worth. And dare I say it, it adds happiness and joy to your life to overcome obstacles. 

But how much is too much? 

Think about when you’re working with your horse. I’m currently working on teaching my horse to sidepass. It’s easy to overface him and it would be too much if I were to insist he sidepassed perfectly all the way down the side of the arena. Right now, I ask for two steps. It used to be just one. But he’s got the idea and now he's being challenged for one more step. It’s a challenge, but one he can handle, and then he feels proud. And so do I. 

We’re the same as our horses in this manner. Basically you have to challenge yourself in a way that’s actually a challenge. If it’s something you can already do it’s not really a challenge, is it? But it needs to be something you think you can actually do, or you’ll just give up and not try. But because you think you have a chance, when you do accomplish something, your struggles along the way just light you up, because you see it as part of the process. It adds layers of meaning and mini-accomplishments along the way. Like little stars going “ding!” in a mario video game. 

But if you ask too much of yourself, you’ll feel powerless, because you know (or think) you just can’t do it. It’s very demoralizing. It happens to me often, and I have to be ruthless with myself and what’s actually on my to-do list for the day, because if I allow myself to think about how I need to ride the horses, do the barn chores, coach my clients, prepare for my launch, record a podcast, post on social media, clean the house, mother my children, connect with my spouse, exercise, meditate, and feel amazing and have fun. And somehow do it all by 6pm. Oh, and talk with my friends… Well, I just want to eat bon-bons and cry. 

It’s a lot better when I pick what’s happening on any given day. 

But even when I pare down my list, it’s still challenging. Because life. 

So let me share a perspective shift that really helps me embrace all the challenges that come my way. 

Voting Donald Trump GIF by NRDC

I named my flagship coaching offering, The Mental Gym for Equestrians. It’s really a great analogy because developing our mental skills is so similar to developing our physical skills. If you want to get stronger physically, you lift some weights. If you want to get stronger mentally, you have to lift weight mentally. (It’s a metaphor). 

What happens when you lift weights? You have micro tears in your muscles. (And this isn’t a bad thing). Then your body repairs itself and your muscles are now a little stronger and a little bigger. Woo-hoo! But if you try to lift too heavy your first day in the gym you’ll probably leave with an injury and lingering pain. 

Same thing mentally. If you never challenge yourself mentally or emotionally, you will be weak mentally and emotionally. You’ll be triggered more easily. And on the other extreme, if you are completely overwhelmed psychologically, you’ll probably be injured (trauma), and may have chronic psychological pain. 

So what do ya do? In the gym, you start lighter and progressively challenge yourself to lift heavier weights incrementally. You get stronger. And turn into Arnold. Ok, I jest. But seriously, consistent workouts where you work a little harder each time makes you stronger. 

Similarly, that’s how you become stronger and more resilient psychologically. You go through experiences that challenge you without over facing you. Boom baby! (The Emperor’s New Groove is a great movie and I recommend it).  

So… how do you find the balance between pushing yourself too little or too much?

Let me ask you a question: can you differentiate between sympathy and compassion? 

As a parent, I’ve found this question really key. (And it carries over to my riding as well). It’s all too easy to mistake sympathy and compassion for the same thing. 

Sympathy is feeling bad for my kids and wishing they didn’t feel that way. “Yes, dear, I am sorry you have to do your chores today.” And while it’s not bad on the surface - in fact, it might seem wonderful! I mean, after all, don’t we want people to suffer less? Well, maybe. 

Do you really want someone to suffer less because you care for them… Or because you don’t want them to feel bad anymore. 

Compassion is really about the person, not your feelings. Or even their feelings. For my kids, sympathy is feeling for them when they want a new toy, or to not do their chores. Compassion is letting them feel sad, and being there with them, and knowing that they’ll be better off after. 

Sympathy is when someone says they’re sorry my horse is lame. Compassion is my best friend coming over to my house and giving me a hug while I cry. 

In your own life, do you have sympathy for yourself? And want to remove as much pain and strife from your life as possible? Or do you have compassion for yourself, and you embrace working through struggle so you evolve into a better person? A better rider? 

And I get it. It’s easy to share your sympathies. It’s easier to focus on feelings. It can be a lot more challenging to figure out and attempt to measure personal growth. And the more advanced you get as a rider, it gets harder to measure growth as well. 

But here’s the thing: growth doesn’t have to be monumental to be meaningful. Small, consistent improvements compound over time. It’s like the difference between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy wants to take away the immediate discomfort, but compassion understands that enduring and overcoming challenges is what truly makes us stronger and more resilient.

So how can you apply this to your riding and your life with horses?

Arrow GIF

Here’s 6 ways you can apply this today.

1. Chunk Your Goals: Break down your big goals into smaller, achievable steps. Just like asking your horse for one more step in a sidepass, challenge yourself incrementally. Celebrate each small victory, because each one is a building block towards your larger goal.

2. Recognize Your Limits: Understand your current capabilities and be honest about them. Pushing beyond your limits can lead to burnout or injury. Know when to push and when to rest.

3. Seek Support: Whether it’s your trainer, a fellow rider, or a mental performance coach, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having a support system can make a world of difference in navigating challenges.

4. Embrace the Process: Understand that struggle is a natural part of growth. Instead of avoiding it, learn to embrace it as a valuable part of your journey. Each challenge you face is an opportunity to build your mental and emotional muscles.

5. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Recognize your efforts and progress, no matter how small they may seem. Self-compassion fuels resilience and keeps you motivated even during tough times.

6. Reflect and Adjust: Regularly take time to reflect on your progress and experiences. What’s working? What’s not? Be willing to adjust your approach as needed.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all pain and struggle from your life, but to manage it in a way that fosters growth and resilience. Just like in the gym, it’s about finding the right balance of challenge and rest to build your strength over time.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and assess: Are you pushing yourself just enough to grow, without tipping into the territory of too much? Are you treating yourself with the same compassion you would offer a friend or a horse? 

And most importantly, are you enjoying the journey? Because at the end of the day, your love for horses and riding is what brought you here. It’s the joy, the connection, and the personal growth that make it all worthwhile.

Until next time, keep riding, keep growing, and keep finding joy in every step of the journey.

Happy riding!

And because I love to give back to you, I’m doing a free training! Join us for a Mini Mental Bootcamp where you’ll get a (loving) kick in the pants to get started with all the mental skills you need as a rider to bust up all your limiting beliefs and unleash your true potential, bond better with your horse and have an incredible amount of fun along the way. 

Happy Trails!


PS- Prefer to listen instead of read the Newsletter? I got you! The Resilient Reiner Newsletter also comes as a podcast! 🎙️ Tune in to the latest episodes now!

PPS - If you're ready to unlock your full potential as a rider, learn what's missing from your training program and get the mental skills you need for peak performance, SIGN UP HERE for the Mini Mental Skills Bootcamp to reserve your seat!


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