Your personality influences everything you do, every day, including how your ride and show your horse. If you classify yourself as a control freak or a perfectionist, you’re not alone. Many high-achieving riders share your affinity for keeping things just so.
Here’s the thing: Your ‘Type A-ness” can be your greatest asset or your biggest downfall as a rider. NRHA Seven Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani recognizes that he wouldn’t have achieved every milestone on his way to becoming the highest-money-earning rider in his sport without his attention to detail. However, he remembers when it wasn’t always a favorable attribute.
“I’m a firm believer that your biggest strength can also be your biggest enemy,” he says. “At a younger age, my need for perfection was a big enemy. I wanted complete control. I spent too much time perfecting things that might not matter as part of the end result. This took time away from working on the things that had a bigger impact.”
But with age and experience comes wisdom. Fappani has found ways to manage his personality and use it to his advantage. Here are his best tips.
Learn More: Joint Care Tips with Andrea Fappani
Listen to Your Horse Every Ride
Fappani says putting in the time to learn about your horse and what he’s telling you allows you to determine what he needs instead of only doing what you decide he needs.
“If I’m not paying attention to my horse because I think I already know him, I might not notice when he’s having an off day—or a great day,” he says. “Horses are just like people and have good days and bad days. If I focus on working where my horse is that day and improving from that spot, things get better every day.”
Separate Physical and Mental
“I can’t expect to control my horse’s mind all the time,” Fappani shares. “He might be feeling fresh or dull from one day to the next. His mind won’t be the same every day. What I can expect is softness and body control. That helps me let go. I know that if I do the right job at 2 and 3 years old, I’ll have that body control. So, I don’t need to control his mind.”
Take (and Give) a Break
Fappani is clear in his commitment to giving his horses time off—a day off, turnout, and relaxation.
Additionally, he advises knowing when to let go. Particularly at an event when the stakes are high and your perfectionist tendencies could work against you.
“Clear your mind and ride the horse you have,” he says. “I try to relax at the horse shows and not overthink anything. I do the work at home, and nothing I do at the show will allow a quick change if something isn’t ready. And I treat every ride the same, no matter the stakes, and try to do a little better every time. With this approach, you can help your horse’s mindset, too.”
Try the Other Side
While you can’t change who you are at your core, Fappani says you can make yourself move out of your perfectionist mindset from time to time.
“I make myself let go,” he says. “Forcing myself to do that adds balance to my mindset. You can’t change who you are—or who your horse is—but you must force yourself to put a little of your opposite into your routine.”
Bonus tip for those who aren’t control freaks: “Make a diary of each horse and keep notes to help you really focus; train yourself to be more detailed. It’ll help you feel more prepared.”