Perfection is the Enemy of the Good

Dressage riders are particularly prone to over analysis, perfectionism, paralysis, self-loathing (brought on by the aforementioned activities), and DESPAIR.


Far Above Par (Finn) in the warm up arena, doing a working half-pirouette left.

I will NEVER achieve my goal! we cry in despair, whether that goal is to sit the trot without bouncing hideously, do tempi-changes or a decent pirouette, or simply ride a dressage test without going off course.


Far Above Par (Finn) warming up. Yes, a little on the forehand, maybe some tail tension (did I just tap him with the whip?), and I’m looking down. And those white breeches are not flattering. How’s the inner voice, eh?

Eventers seem to be so much more laid back – perhaps it’s all that galloping, it just blows the cobwebs away and gives a nice shot of endorphins. Maybe seeing your life flash before your eyes when you almost wipe out on the cross country course helps keep little worries like whether you look fat in your white breeches in perspective. Who the heck really cares?

People are all thinking about their OWN thighs, not yours. Seriously.

As for hunter/jumper people, well, they are two different types, aren’t they? Hunter riders are a bit like dressage riders: everything has to be perfect: turnout, horse, rhythm, form, etc. Jumpers just want to get over the course clean and fast. The really good ones do it with good form, of course, but some pretty wild stuff happens on the jump course. Looks like fun…if I had more guts.

Last weekend Finn and I competed in a dressage show held over three long, long, long days. Grueling is how I would best describe it: hot, windy, tiring. Finn was a trooper (he’s a professional); I was a whiner.DSC02134

Things started out poorly, with me going off course in my first test in spite of having a reader. Kind of amazing, isn’t that? The judge gave me a disappointingly low score for the test, and it was a discouraging way to start the long show weekend.

However, I got back on the horse (or pony in this case), and kept trying, looking at the show as a chance to learn and to practice my tests, worst case. Things got better and I’m glad I didn’t take my toys and go home, much as I wanted to after that first day!

DSC02063My husband gave me the following encouraging quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Perhaps it might help you if you are feeling discouraged right now…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Meanwhile, for those of us take chances, whether it is donning white breeches and submitting ourselves to the written comments of a judge and the imagined observations of spectators, or going over a course of jumps, riding a green horse out on the trail, or just pushing ourselves to keep trying, I say, “well done, you. Keep growing, and remember: this is all about having fun!”

Don’t let perfectionism destroy the Good that is within your grasp. Take chances and enjoy what comes your way!

Who could resist Finn's cute face?

Keep it fun for me!

2 thoughts on “Perfection is the Enemy of the Good

  1. I love this! I’ve been obsessing about my legs — getting mad at myself. Yesterday I realized that I need to keep it fun and that I’d never be so demanding and critical of my horse. I need to be more forgiving of myself. Moving to the point of despair never helps. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! If only we could give ourselves a bit of grace. That inner voice can be so cruel (or at least mine can be). Sometimes I have to tell myself, “now be nice to yourself! Find something good to say!” It’s good to encourage each other, too.


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