Avoiding Comparison: A True Challenge in the Equestrian Sport

BY AMBASSADOR CALLIE HILDENBRAND

Some say that comparison is simply a part of human nature. As much as we would love to say that we are perfectly comfortable in our own skin and don’t analyze ourselves in relation to the people around us, can this honestly be said? Unfortunately, many would answer “no.”

Especially in an overwhelming world full of judgment, negativity on social media, and unrealistic imagery, it is quite difficult to completely avoid comparing ourselves to others. Like that isn’t bad enough, many aspects of the equestrian sport are completely based on the premise of comparison.  In competition, we perform in front of judges who watch our every move with keen eyes, see each little mistake, and give out scores accordingly.

It is incredibly easy to become discouraged over a lower placement than you expected. You are being compared with the other riders in the class, so if one rider did one thing better in their round, they will be placed above you. Even if you put down the best course of your life, that still might not be good enough compared to the others to earn a blue ribbon. So no, you are certainly not alone if you sometimes feel overcome by the pressure of comparison in this sport. The question is, can it be avoided?

This line-up after a flat class at HITS Coachella is a great representation of how easy it is to get caught up in differentiation between riders. Photo by Lauren Mauldin

Absolutely! It certainly will not be an easy or quick fix, but it is possible. Speaking from experience, it took me way longer than I had hoped to get over the seemingly inevitable struggle.

I started riding late at the age of 13, so I always felt like I was behind the curve when looking at the talent of other riders my age. The thoughts of “I’m at such a disadvantage” and “I’ll never catch up” were constantly running through my mind, and for a long time I didn’t know how to stop them.

Yasmin Rizvi showing in the WIHS equitation phase at WEF. The struggle of comparison seems to be most prevalent in the equitation, as the riders themselves are being meticulously judged. Photo by TPH Ambassador Callie Hildenbrand

Thankfully, with the help of encouraging trainers, motivational books, and inspirational blog articles, I finally realized that my only disadvantage was my negative mindset. With a more clear and focused approach, I was much more free to absorb information, learn new things, and improve more quickly; there was nothing holding me back anymore and it was, and still is, the greatest feeling.

Of course there are instances every now and then where I briefly revert to the degrading habit of comparison, but that is only normal for people in the equestrian world, and the world in general. As long as you identify and move past it again to resume a more positive and productive mindset, you’re golden.