Jun 13, 2021

Pressure Proof with Daniel Stewart: Mistake Quotas

USEA/Kim Beaudoin Photo.

Our sport is brilliant and epic and unlike any other. . . But at times, it can feel more pressure-packed than all other sports combined. When your horse’s unpredictable nature combines with high expectations and the endless physical and mental demands of riding, it's only natural to feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time.


In a way, it’s kind of like weird “pressure” math:
Unpredictability + Expectations + Physical and Mental demands = Pressure.

Fortunately, while you can’t eliminate unpredictability and the physical and mental demands of riding (and the frequent mistakes, mess-ups, and missed opportunities they create), you can eliminate some of the resulting pressure by adjusting your expectations. To do that, however, you’re going to need a little help, and that’s where this month’s Pressure Proof Tip comes in.

There are many ways to manage pressure (just read my previous monthly tips, and you find many), but this month’s tip is perhaps the simplest and most effective of all. This month’s tip is called a mistake quota and its goal is to help eliminate pressure by helping eliminate the disappointment of unexpected mistakes and mess-ups.

The first step in developing a mistake quota is to give yourself permission to make, accept, and even expect a few mistakes from time to time (pressure is created when you hope everything goes perfectly but are afraid it won’t). When you learn to expect a few bumps in the road (expect the unexpected), the pressure you experience decreases. It’s like a pressure valve. When you’re worried about messing up, the pressure builds, but when you permit yourself to make a few mistakes, that pressure is relieved.

So this month, give the mistake quota a try by allowing yourself three mistakes in every class, clinic, or schooling session. If you need more, borrow one from tomorrow’s ride, and if you don’t use all three today, you can carry them over to tomorrow’s ride. The idea behind the mistake quota isn’t that you’re incapable of giving a perfect effort; it’s just that you know perfect efforts don’t always equate to perfect outcomes.

Here’s a funny story about how a mistake quota can relieve pressure. I was teaching my 15-year-old daughter to drive the other day and told her about the mistake quota and said she might expect to make a few mistakes. She thought it was a bit weird that I was “expecting” her to mess up but seemed okay with the idea. A few minutes later, she unintentionally cut off a car while turning from one busy street to another. When I asked why she didn’t wait, she said, “When I turned into the new lane, I saw the words “BIKE LANE” painted on the ground - I thought it was a car lane! Then she did something weird. Just as I was thinking she might feel overwhelmed and bummed out, she looked over at me, smiled, and said, “1”. A few minutes later, we found ourselves in the drive-through at Chick-Filet where my daughter unintentionally bounced the Subaru over a curb. . . Instead of getting mad at herself, she just smiled again and said “2”.

Then it struck me! When I gave her permission to expect and accept a few mistakes (make a perfect effort but be okay with an imperfect outcome), I had released the pressure she was feeling, and in doing so, allowed her driving lesson to become more enjoyable and educational, and less worrisome and disappointing!

So, in the future, if you’d like your riding classes, clinics, and lessons to become more enjoyable and educational and less worrisome and disappointing, remember the mistake quota!

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Pressure Proof Tip! If you’d like more empowering tips like these, you can order an autographed copy of my new equestrian sport psychology book Bolder, Braver, Brighter. It’s chock-full of helpful mental coaching tips, tricks, and techniques. I think you’d love it! You can order your autographed copy here.

Oct 23, 2021 Young Event Horse

U.S. Riders Move Up the Leaderboard in 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championships at Mondial du Lion

Course designer Pierre Michelet's cross-country courses for the 2021 FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Mondial du Lion were extravagant as always and put young horses to the ultimate test in the 6- and 7-year-old Championships. The 2021 Holekamp/Turner Grant and The Dutta Corp. Prize recipients Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission to Land (Cobra x Deeply Dippy K) move forward after the final phase sitting in 30th overnight on a score of 55.8.

Oct 23, 2021

Sara Kozumplik-Murphy Takes the CCI4*S Lead at TerraNova After Dressage

The inaugural Event at TerraNova kicked off with dressage on Friday at Terranova Equestrian in Myakka City, Florida. In the CCI4*-S the first rider down the centerline Leslie Law (GBR) took the early lead riding the Irish Sport Horse Typically Fernhill (Dondoctro Ryal K x Castlefield Sarah), owned by Craig McCallum, on 27.2. He maintained the lead through the lunch break and then Sara Kozumplik Murphy and her syndicated Selle Francais gelding Rubens d’Ysieux (Balougran x Orenda d/Ysieux / Mr. Blue) took the top spot with 26.1.

Oct 22, 2021 USEA Foundation

Holekamp/Turner Grant Recipient, MBF Cooley Permission to Land, Completes Dressage at Mondial du Lion

Young horses from all over the world have flocked to Le Lion d'Angers, France for the Mondial du Lion young horse championships, including this year's Holekamp/Turner Grant and The Dutta Corp. Prize recipients Cole Horn and MBF Cooley Permission to Land (Cobra x Deeply Dippy K). Horn and the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding bred by Knightfield Stud are representing the U.S. in the 2021 FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship.

Oct 22, 2021 Young Event Horse

The YEH Yearbook: Class of 2014

With 24 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program competitions on the 2014 calendar, young event horses all across the country had the opportunity to shine and qualify for the 2014 USEA YEH Championships. The YEH West Coast Championships were held at Galway Downs in Temecula, California, while the YEH East Coast Championships took place at Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland. Following 2014’s YEH finale, many of the graduating class of the 2014 USEA Young Event Horse Championships have gone on to make their mark on the upper levels of eventing.

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