Make A Plan For Riding Success
By Laura Boynton King

Laura King with Lark's Summit
Photo by Allan Carlisle

Former Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey once said, “Luck is the residue of design.”

In other words, a great way to increase the likelihood of success in your riding is to come up with a plan to make it happen. Putting this plan together is a lot simpler than you would imagine, and requires only 4 steps.

Step 1 is to know why you ride. Perhaps you started out in equestrian sports because you loved horses. Perhaps you took it up for exercise. Maybe it was the competition that originally attracted you. Many equestrians after riding for a while, however, lose sight of their original intent and get caught up in the negative aspects of competition.

Riding is not only about winning and losing; it’s also about being in touch with yourself and finding your unique talents and abilities. Think of riding as a metaphor for empowerment, a metaphor for concentration, a metaphor for the strength we all have but don’t think we do.

As soon as you find yourself losing sight of what drew you to riding in the first place, take a moment and picture how excited you were the first time you climbed up on a horse. Remember the sights, sounds, and feelings of that day, and remind yourself how excited and lucky you still are to be involved in such a rewarding activity.

The first step being to decide your personal motives for riding, ask yourself these questions as often as you can: What do I want from riding? What do I want from myself when I ride? What do I want for myself?

Now that you’ve reminded yourself of what you wanted from riding in the first place, the second step in your plan for success is to 'draw a map' of how you plan to get back into that frame of mind so that you can enjoy your trip to success.

Have you ever used Mapquest or Yahoo! Maps? If you have, you know that you can ask the program to create maps or driving directions based on shortest distance in miles, quickest route, or most scenic. For your 'map,' you want to arrive at your destination (success, improvement, winning, having fun) in the easiest and most enjoyable way.

Formulate a plan that you will enjoy executing on a daily and weekly basis. The enjoyment of riding is in the process of accomplishing, not in the end result itself. I’ve found throughout my life that the more I enjoy doing something, the more relaxed and confident I am, and thus the more successful I become at it.

Step 3 is having a way to define and measure your success. How will you know when you’ve reached your destination? Will it be when you start to win at all of your events? When you become well or better known in your discipline?

Again, try to think beyond winning and losing.

In my tapes and CDs I assume that your goal in riding is to achieve peak performance, and I show you how to do this through relaxation and mental imagery exercises that target your subconscious mind. In many respects, this makes performing at your highest potential as easy and spontaneous as riding a bicycle. Just as the ability to ride a bike doesn’t require conscious thought, once the keys to relaxed riding are in your subconscious, you will never again be nervous or question your riding abilities.

That being said, consider that we’ve all had days when we’ve ridden extremely well, but for some reason or another didn’t place as well as we thought we should have. Conversely, there have been days when our performance fell short of our own expectations, but we nevertheless did very well with the judges. In which scenario do you experience the most enjoyment?

Keep in mind that the process of becoming a better and more successful rider is an ongoing one, and achieving peak performance simply begins with relaxing on your horse and enjoying yourself.

The final step, step 4, is acknowledging your success. If your goal was to win a particular event and you failed, acknowledge the aspects of your event that were successful. Certainly the training and preparation you put into it was a success because you’ve matured and developed as a rider, ribbon or not. There might be only one first place winner, but your efforts will lead to another, perhaps bigger win.

Because of all of the uncontrollable factors in riding, and because judging can by its very nature be subjective, you have little control over the results of an event. You do have complete control, however, over the effort you put in, and over what you find enjoyable about riding.

Go ahead and make your own plan for success! If you have any trouble along the way, feel free to contact me.

About the author:
Laura Boynton King, NLP, CHT, founder of Summit Dynamics and author of the “5 Keys to Winning for the Equestrian” series of CDs and tapes, is a certified hypnotist and sports hypnotist with offices in Lake Park, Palm Beach Gardens, and Wellington, FL. Laura has a full-time practice working with clients in both individual and group sessions, and she teaches clinics. She has been riding since childhood and currently owns two young horses that she raised, soon to make their debut in the show ring. Laura can be reached at 561-841-7603, and For more information, visit her website,