Daniel Stewart: The Mess in Message

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


There are four certainties in riding. You’re going to fall down and you’re going to get up; you’re going to succeed and you’re going to mess up. As long as you’re okay with this you’ll be okay. But if you’re afraid of failing, falling, getting up, or messing up… well there’s a pretty good chance you might feel a little less than okay. The important thing to remember is that struggles create strengths, and mistakes create messages that teach you how to improve. In other words, sometimes there’s going to be a little mess in your messages… you just need to have the courage to look past the mess and mistakes so that you can see the message they’re trying to teach you. Below is an example of how messing up, missed opportunities, and mistakes can lead you to mastery:

The Five M’s to Mastery

MESS UP:  You forget your dressage test because you distracted yourself by worrying about the judge.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY:  You do the same thing in your next test even though you knew better! You just forgot to pay attention to your last message.

MISTAKE:  You do it again in your next test! You should know better by now – so now it’s a mistake because you forgot to listen to your previous two messages.

MINDFULNESS:  In your next test you remind yourself to stay focused on your ride and you remember your test! Being mindful of your previous mistakes (messages) allowed you to finally complete a test.

MASTERY:  Thanks to the messages from your past (mistakes) you never forget another dressage test. 

Notice that in this example it wasn’t a mistake until you repeated it three times. The first two were learning opportunities that you either paid attention to or not. Remember, a good mistake is one that you make because you’re outside your comfort zone; one that you don’t blame on others; and one that you learn from… and never repeat again! Even though it’s sometimes hard to accept, mistakes aren’t missed opportunities, they’re learning opportunities… as long as you’re mindful of them. Here’s another fun example I read recently: 

MESS UP:  You’re walking through a pasture. There’s a big hole in the ground. You fall into it.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY:  You’re walking through a pasture. There’s a big hole in the ground. You know it’s there but get distracted and fall into it anyways. You should know better.

MISTAKE:  You’re walking through a pasture. There’s a big hole in the ground. You panic because you know it’s there and fall into it again! Big mistake.

MINDFULNESS:  You’re walking through a pasture. There’s a big hole in the ground. You walk around it.

MASTERY:  You walk through another pasture. 

In the end, always remember that your road to success is always under construction… and that being mindful of the holes that can sometimes appear is the best way to ensure you don’t fall in them!  Struggles create success. Mistakes create masters.

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.