Daniel Stewart’s Verbal Eraser

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


No one’s perfect (nope, not you either) so it’s just a matter of time before you mess up or throw your horse under the bus.  Perhaps you did you best but your best wasn’t good enough, or maybe you unintentionally lost your temper with your horse or trainer. Regardless of the mess-up you’ll always be able to make-up for it… as long as you shrink the size of your but – not butt – but “but” (boy that’s a lot of buts). 

So why am I talking so much about buts? Well, it’s because the word BUT is part of a unique family of words and phrases called verbal erasers – words that have a nasty habit of unintentionally erasing positive things while encouraging you to focus on the negative. Just like the eraser on the end of you pencil that erases words that have been written (assuming you haven’t chewed it off!), verbal erasers erase words that have been spoken – even if those words are positive… and BUT is the most common eraser of all!

It’s possible that this is the first time you’ve ever heard of verbal erasers so here are a few examples that should make them a bit easier to understand:

  • I know I’m capable of riding well – but – everyone else is so much better than me!
  • I know my first few fences were great – but the last few were horrible!
  • I know you think I’m a good rider – but – the last time I rode I was so bad!

It’s easy to see how the word “but” can erase the positive sentiments contained in the first half of the sentence (to make you forget or discount them). This is because words spoken after an eraser are interpreted by your brain as ten-times stronger than those that occurred before it! Verbal erasers are also quite common in apologies. For example, when you say, “I’m sorry I yelled at you – but – you made me so mad”, you’re not really sorry at, you’re still just blaming the other person).  

Verbal erasers also come in the form of common phrases… you’ve probably even used a few recently:

  • I know I’m capable of riding well – the only problem is – everyone else is so much better than me!
  • I know my first few fences were great – I just wish the last few weren’t so horrible!
  • I know you think I’m a good rider – there’s just one thing – the last time I rode I was so bad!

It’s been said if you’re not making enough mistakes you’re just not trying hard enough, and that if you’re doing everything right you must be doing something wrong. Owning your mistakes, weaknesses, and challenges is an important part of evolving as a rider (after all, mistakes are bound to happen when you have the courage to leave your comfort zone) so the next time you make a mistake leave your eraser at home and remember that to grow as a rider, you just need to shrink the size of your but!

Originally posted in Daniel Stewart’s Pressure Proof Academy monthly tips.

Daniel Stewart has been an equestrian for over thirty-five years and has coached riders all over the world for the past twenty-five. Combining his knowledge as an equestrian with a degree in physical education, he created an empowering and inspiring clinic series that helps riders develop equally strong minds and bodies. As the internationally acclaimed author of Pressure Proof Your Riding, Ride Right, and Fit and Focused in 52; he’s widely considered one of the worlds leading experts on equestrian sport psychology, athletics, and performance. He teaches clinics and seminars to thousands of riders each year including an annual summer clinic-tour that includes 50 clinics in more than 30 cities over a span of  60 days. He’s a sough-after keynote speaker, has published countless magazine articles, and is an equestrian sport psychology and rider fitness contributor for many other equestrian associations.