Episode 10: Make Mistakes in the Right Direction

“It's easier to get started if you free yourself up to the idea that it's okay to make mistakes. The biggest key is being able to get started and not hold yourself back in some way.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Season 1 continues with its focus on the rider’s mind. Today, I discus making mistakes. I’m going to break it down into three different things. Why you should make mistakes. Which mistake you should really try to avoid. And how to measure the direction of your mistakes.

During my clinics I often tell riders that they should make mistakes in the right direction. This implies that it is okay to make mistakes, and there is some kind of way to measure the mistakes that you are making and how that’s working out for you. Listen on to learn how to make your mistakes work for you.

“You need to be your own coach, and you will find that laughter brings more power than criticism.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

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Show Notes

[02:14] It’s easier to get started if you free yourself up to the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes. The biggest key is being able to get started and not hold yourself back in some way.

[02:39] When I see riders tense up at mistakes it makes me think of training a horse. I know when my horse makes a mistake I’m not going to criticize or judge.

[04:45] When you’re out in the barn riding you need to be your own coach, and you will find that laughter brings more power than criticism.

[05:03] A mistake you need to avoid is one that risks your safety or your horses safety.

[06:13] As your training your horses you need to be able to measure the trend that your directions are headed.

[06:35] Take 30 days to look over the trends.

[07:07]  There are three different options that come up when you look at Trends. Number one is trending down. Number two is staying the same or flat-lining. Number three is trending up.

[07:57] I make mistakes on purpose when teaching the horses how to change leads.

[08:21] I started asking Gabby for lead changes before I had full control.

[09:07] I’m teaching myself and my horses that mistakes are okay.

[10:45] The problem with waiting until perfect is the horse actually thinks they’re doing something wrong when trying a new lead change.

[11:27] Realize that you’ll need some sort of consistency or you won’t be able to measure the trend.

[11:44] Get motivated to get into some kind of rhythm. Try working the horses three days a week.

[12:29] Use video to review and compare the trends.

[13:34] The more details of a ride you can feel, the more you will know what’s not working.

“Decide your end goal then measure whether it is trending up or trending down.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Links and Resources:

12 hours at a horse show with Stacy Westfall and Newt

Horse spontaneously stands on box, but why?


  1. Mandy Parks on December 24, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    This podcast, and particularly this episode, literally changed everything for me, I hear these words in my head (“make mistakes in the right direction”) nearly every time I work with my horse Bojack, a 6 year old (very smart) gelding with a whole lot of questions. Instead of getting angry with him (or with myself) when I don’t get the response I want, I first look at myself to see what did I do to get that response– was I unclear, was I inconsistent? And then realize it’s ok, I can mistakes, and so can he, and we learn to have a better conversation every day.

  2. Valerie Naegele on June 10, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Hi Stacy!
    I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart… seriously! I just found your podcast (I love podcasts)and started binge listening on my long drives (lol), and can’t even begin to tell you how much you have helped me answer questions about horses ( and life around horses) that have been burning in me for years!!! It feels so relieving to have some of my ideas and theories validated- it can be so tough to find answers in this industry when you ride in multiple disciplines, especially when you have very limited support. I want to learn and know it all and I am so happy and grateful that you have taken the time to connect with us all and show us what it means to be a truly well rounded horsewoman!
    Thank you for your wisdom, support, honesty, and authenticity!

  3. Karina on January 29, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    “There are many wonderful places in the world, but one of my favorite places is on the back of my horse.”

    Rolf Kopfle

  4. Jenny Wood-Outhwaite on January 29, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Stacy! You know what I love most about your podcasts? They message is always transferable to life and actions beyond the world of horses 🙂
    Thank you for all you share!!


    • Stacy Westfall on January 31, 2019 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks for the awesome feedback Jenny! I have on my list of goals in life ‘Public speaker-outside of horse industry too’…this must mean that I’m getting closer!

  5. Martina Brown on January 23, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I just watched the video with Newt–I had watched it before but I was just wondering–Do horses know that when you decide to ride at 11:00 pm that it is really late? Do they ride differently? Are they cranky? I am wondering if they are thinking–hey it is really late and we never ride at this time or do you start training at different times of the day including late evenings a week or two before you start showing so they get used to it?

    • Stacy Westfall on January 25, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      During the training process, we start hauling them to shows. Even our smaller shows for reining involve long days, lights on all night and strange riding hours-either really early (4:30 am) or really late. Many of those early shows the horses won’t even show at-they are just along for riding and experience. By the time they go somewhere like Congress, they know the deal. The best way to describe it is that they feel ‘seasoned.’ They understand and expect what’s coming. Then they get a vacation when we get home!

  6. Martina Brown on January 23, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    I have really enjoyed training Hildy. I have been doing exercises on the ground and I smile a lot because I watch her face and body movements when she is thinking about what she should do. Cracks me up when she tries different things–asking me was that it? My cues must need to be stronger in certain situations. In one instance, I will do ground work and I usually end with her bowing. One day I was done but did not ask her to bow and she offered it on her own–she was thinking we always end on that so I might as well do it. Haha. I am glad you mentioned lead changes. Looking forward to learning about that in June. I did try it one time, she did change leads the first time, but when I tried it again on the same day she didn’t. Never worked on it since. I am not really sure how the whole process works—That is why I am coming back this summer 🙂

    • Stacy Westfall on January 25, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      Martina-So glad you are having fun! Yep, they are funny to watch. I’ve been doing stretches that involve treats at the end of the ride. I forgot to do the stretch and Gabby started doing them on her own ‘hey, where’s my treat? Is it over here?’…the funny thing is she can’t see the treat coming because of the shape of the stretch so she really is blindly looking for it. Good reminders being given by our horses:)

      • Martina Brown on January 26, 2019 at 5:10 pm

        Stretches–Could show me some when I come in June. I think that would be good for the horses. Especially since all of ours at the farm are getting older.

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