Tough Equestrian Mentality

Quick post before I have to jump on a conference call :joy:

I’m currently in the midst of a discussion on FB where horsey folks are sharing their experience of playing through an injury.

It has devolved into some folks on both sides of party lines - one saying keep going, others saying that we can’t judge a person’s pain and we shouldn’t encourage them to continue if they say something hurts.

Interested to hear what COTHers think. My most recent post on the thread was:

I think the problem that we’re discussing is that the bar has been lowered to the point it’s almost on the ground.

The mentality of grit has been lost. Everyone says “oh no you poor baby, you hurt, go head and take your time and don’t worry.” It’s made people soft; I see it everywhere. No one knows how to tough something out and keep going when things are hard.

I don’t think any of us are masochists, but the OP said her help called out because “his foot hurt”. It’s like the everyone gets a trophy mentality; not everyone is a winner and just because something hurts doesn’t mean you quit. Exercise hurts, but you still do it. (Or maybe not and that’s why we have an obesity epidemic in this country. :joy:)

I’m personally a fan of “hospital or on”. Go to the hospital or get back on. I don’t care if it’s “get back on and walk on the buckle once around this half of the arena,” but from a mental toughness stand point I think people need more tough love and less coddling and excuses.

What say you, COTHers?


I disagree with you. And I always get back on. But to what end? The last two times I got back on by the next day it was evident, and confirmed by xray, that I had broken a bone. I got back on because I was taught you have to be tough. As I get older I realize how stupid this is. What did I prove by getting back on? I’ve been riding for over 40 years. I have nothing to prove to anyone. And I got back on anyways because of this mentality. I think its dangerous frankly.


As a instructor and professional, it’s my due diligence to ensure my riders are safe and can ride effectively. Everyone reacts to pain differently and it’s important to encourage your peers/students to communicate with their instructors that something hurts, uncomfortable or there’s too much tension. I would NEVER encourage or force a student to ride through pain/discomfort/tension as it can create unsafe conditions. People in pain guard the area that is painful. Sometimes that means the riders position and general equitation suffers, thus creating a situation that is unsafe.

If I have a rider that is sent to the ER or the doctor for an injury, I always ask for doctor’s clearance to ride.

When I was jumping in my early/mid teens, I remember this one time that my instructor forced me off her school horse during cooldown, to let another student cool him down. This other student had hardware in her collarbone from when she fell and it broke horribly. I was appalled at how nonchalant she was about the rider’s safety and the liability of situation. Edited to add: this rider had NOT gotten doctors clearance to ride, she was less than 3 weeks post op and should NOT have been handling horses at all.


In general, I would typically agree to the point that people need to develop grit and mental toughness. With equestrian sports (and life in general) one has to develop some level of mental strength to endure whatever comes our way. There is no escape there will be pain.

The grey line is that people do experience pain differently. One person’s barometer may not be the best median to judge other people. How are we to know that perhaps behind “the foot hurts” is not a secondary, real condition? There are just so many variables.

I think most of us have been brought up with the mentality that if you fall you get back on. For most of us, that has been the case. In my life, except where I thought I could have had a possible head injury, I got back on the horse.

But these days? With a body that has been through the mill? No way. I’ll judge at that time whether to get back on or not, based on how I feel, but not on some notion of tough love, coddling, or needing to prove something (unless to myself).

When it comes to human behaviour or how to manage human emotions, there really isn’t black or white.


Yeah, what @islgrl said.

“Go to the hospital or back on” is a spectacularly stupid philosophy. Whether or not it is wise for a person to get back on after a fall depends on multiple factors and there are plenty of situations where the person doesn’t need to go to the hospital, but shouldn’t get back on, either.

It’s also unfair to judge a person who calls out because his foot hurt. You have no idea why his foot hurt, how much his foot hurts, or how having a sore/injured foot impacts his ability to do his job. Now, if we’re talking about an employee who makes a habit of calling out for one reason or another, then that’s a separate issue. But a normally reliable worker who calls out because his foot hurts ought to be treated respectfully, not mocked for being a weakling with no grit.

And I say this as a person who has been riding since the 1960s and always either went to the hospital or got back on, even when, in hindsight, there were times when I shouldn’t have.


This is a great response! It really made me think of the time I got back on after fracturing my right fibula. A painful injury that you can weight bare on. I didn’t know it was fractured, but was in pain and could feel the swelling. I got back on and finished my ride and shouldn’t have. I still have issues with it to this day because the injury was not treated timely nor properly, due to my own decisions and financial situation at the time.


Make that 1950s for me.
And that was back when the accepted way was Back On. Period.
As a 12yo I rode with a bloody broken nose after getting smacked by a horse who jumped so inverted my nose met his neck.
Today, with concussion protocols, I would hope that sort of injury would have the rider off the horse ASAP & seeing medical treatment.

For myself, I tend to tough things out.
But as I age, I have learned to be more careful of myself.
Mostly because I have horses at home & am the sole caretaker.
If I get hurt, their care - & that of my housecats & chickens - suffers.
But also because living on my farm alone, there is no guarantee help would find me quickly in case of a severe injury.
I pick my battles.


I think the back on or hospital can be too much. It really depends on the reason. IF someone is feeling sick, or not quite right, they shouldn’t be putting themselves more at risk. This can put others at risk too.

In a non-horse context, going to work when you feel sick is how contagion is spread. Maybe if we were a bit more thoughtful about what it is that is wrong, we could better manage what risk we are actually facing.

It’s hard to just say People Lack Grit, when there is also the movement of People Are Stupid. Often these two social pressures work together in someone to produce spectacular results.


In between calls again, so sorry for the quick note

But I think, in general, this attitude is what has led us down this path of being mentally weak. “Everyone has different pain tolerances, you’re too quick to judge.”

I think we’re blessed, living mostly easy lives in first world countries. I think a lot of people who think something is “painful” have no idea how far off they truly are, and I think it’s made the lot of us weak and weak minded.

I’m not ever saying that getting back to doing something when you’re actually injured is a good thing. Please don’t misconstrue that from my words. BUT I also made the comparison that I think is fairly accurate that as a society we’ve become fat and sedentary because exercise is hard. Exercise IS hard and your body usually is in pain afterwards because you’re engaging and building muscle. Does that mean that I shouldn’t do it? Absolutely not. But a lot of people use the excuse that their body “hurts” and so they sit on the couch becoming more and more unhealthy.

I think that’s the issue I have - people are so quick to say oh it’s okay if you think you hurt rather than saying, no it’s not supposed to be easy - push on. And as a result, the bar is becoming lower and lower and mediocrity is the result.


I always thought the getting right back on thing was more about mental rather than physical toughness. You get back on and do the thing again successfully to prove to yourself that you can do it, end on a good note, and to prevent being fearful the next time you ride. I do get right back on after a fall BUT knock on wood I’ve never had a serious injury that required seeking immediate medical attention.

I do not push myself to ride if I have physical pain beyond what is normal for me (I think as we age many of us have some normal level of discomfort, especially with exercise). This means at times I have skipped riding for weeks or even months. I missed several months due to sciatica - and I might well have described that to somebody as “my leg hurts” but it was true debilitating pain to the point where I barely wanted to live let alone ride. I just rode for the first time in several weeks last night due to some pretty severe pain and weakness in one knee. When you have those kinds of pain or a body part that is weak, it creates an unsafe condition. You are either adjusting your position to compensate or lessen the pain, or your mind is so focused on the pain that you can’t properly concentrate on what you are doing. Not where you want to be while doing an activity that is already dangerous enough on its own.


What is the saying: one moment of patience may ward off great disaster.

Very sorry to hear of this situation.


I get what you’re saying, but many injuries happen that don’t appear to require hospital. And no, I don’t think that people are getting “softer” I think you are getting older and the way things are done is changing from what you perceived “used” to happen.

My own example of just feeling “bad” ended poorly. I was feeling a bit ill getting ready, nothing specific, just NQR, said I didn’t feel like doing much. Being young, allowed myself to be pressured to go do a course anyway. I passed out IN THE AIR over a jump. I remember the take off, and the feeling of being in the air, and then just tumbling and rolling and someone screaming at me.

I did go to hospital that time. Happily just a sore back where I’d landed. Nothing broken. Mild flu maybe? But nothing said “don’t let her jump today!” except I just kind of didn’t want to, but not enough to really fight about it.

This colros my understanding of what people say when they “just” aren’t feeling well.

And just telling us that if we were not in 1st world countries, well, ok, yeah, if i lived in not a first world country, I would probably put my health on the line to feed my family/self, but isn’t more safety and less pain the result of people NOT being ok with working while in injured? Isn’t the goal of most people to actually work themselves OUT of having to be in pain to get something?

There’s a balance between being wrapped in cotton wool and endless bottom, but I don’t think there’s only one way to find/judge that balance.


Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are coming from a really rigid angle, especially when you quoted, “Everyone has different pain tolerances, you’re too quick to judge.”

I had major surgery (lifesaving actually) and refused narcotics for the first two days where I was conscious because I “didn’t want to be a wimp.” Who suffered? I did. Had there not been a paradigm of who should is tough or who is weak, I wouldn’t have done something where I suffered. And those that taught that sort of belief system weren’t there or lived my experiences, so, yes, I do in fact belief that everyone has different pain tolerances is relevant. It isn’t just floofy loofy talk either as there is actual science behind this. Pain genetics is an actual field of study.

What I endured, the next person couldn’t but it doesn’t mean that person is weak. And yes, I am mediocre and I consider myself a wimp. But, those that acted as if they were King Kong couldn’t have done it either, that’s why I have the “grey area” view on these matters.

While I do agree that “pushing on” is a requirement for achievement and basic life does require the pain you mention (exercise and just finding ones way through matters like unemployment, divorce, mental health crises), that is not necessarily a matter of grit or setting a median standard to judge all of us. In my view, it is more a matter of laziness and just general privilege that things should come easy. The “instant gratification” society than those willing to go the long road is another angle of the same question.

Truly, no offence meant, but context here: I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t stack up well to Vitaly Minakov or Anastasia Yankova in matters of pain tolerance and pushing on.

Not everyone comes to the table with the same abilities. Hopefully you can understand that. Society can instill determination and working hard as laudable character traits but shaming people for some lackluster attempts at trying doesn’t help the situation either, unless you have the full story.


I am with OP. Obviously you use your best judgment whether more harm will be done by pushing through. But in the example of the barn worker, there is value to sucking it up and enduring a little discomfort if others depend on you. As far as getting back on, I have always had to in order to get back home, haha. However, if a person does not want to get back on after a fall, then I do not believe they should. If your fear is greater than your enjoyment, it is not the right activity for you.


I think it really depends on the age, the physical status, and the pro or ammie status of the rider.

I am an adult ammie, in late middle age. Iove to ride, and I am in no way skiving off because riding is my main recreational activity. Nonetheless, I need to be careful not to get hurt, to let any injuries I have heal up, and to not aggravate any chronic injuries. My goal is to keep riding as long as I can into old age. If I need to moderate my activity to stay riding, I will.

I’ve come off 3 times in my decade as a returning rider. Two of those times were in the arena in a lesson (different horses and coaches). Both times I got back on, road for ten minutes, then had two weeks off to recover from the sprained hand, bruising, back strain, etc. The third time was long ago, I came off on the trail and horse ran home, I had a week off for the serious bruising. Each time I had an x-ray at a clinic, not ER. We have good health care here.

As a kid I actually never fell off but did bail a few times at age 14 when horse bolted. I was able to bounce back up and keep riding without any bad effects.

I’ve had two broken wrists (one at barn) and one broken foot (bolting horse trampled me) since I’ve been riding. Each of those I took off the full medical time to heal up, and fully recovered.

Now the pros I know ride through pain and injury. They have a different physical toughness to me, plus if they don’t ride they don’t get paid. They also tend to age with very messed up bodies.

We also know alot about concussion that we didn’t know even ten years ago.

Anyhow, the “get back on” motto was in think developed to chivvy and shame children who took a harmless tumble and lost their nerve and started sniveling.

It is irrelevant to adult ammies who have a good sense of the limits of their bodies and often are nursing some chronic problem like a bad back or knee or hip.


Truly, no offence meant, but context here: I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t stack up well to Vitaly Minakov or Anastasia Yankova in matters of pain tolerance and pushing on.

Not everyone comes to the table with the same abilities. Hopefully you can understand that. Society can instill determination and working hard as laudable character traits but shaming people for some lackluster attempts at trying doesn’t help the situation either, unless you have the full story.

Probably not, I don’t fight MMA as a rule. :joy: But my point is, I come to the table. My interpretation and original thought was I think people have an easier time opting out of coming to the table at all because “it hurts”. I don’t think it’s wise to risk serious personal injury; I definitely didn’t get back on the time I got bucked off and broke my ribs. I stood up and my vision blacked out; it’s obvious I should not have gotten back on and I’m not suggesting anyone should ignore obvious injury.

My thought was just that I think “it hurts” or “i don’t feel up to that” is a cop-out and I see a lot of people that give up and don’t even try - whether it’s due to fear, or whatever else - and people just simply accept that and coddle them. I think that’s where I’m like “when did this happen as a society” - I get failing. I get having injuries where you cannot continue on. But what I don’t understand is being scared to even try and everyone deeming it acceptable, or even brave and commendable. And while I started talking about falling off a horse, I’m speaking more broadly here - whether it’s physical exercise, or in personal relationships, or at work.

I can respect someone that tries, but I can’t respect someone that excuses away any attempt to try. I have a friend that has debilitating migraines. She’s seen many doctors and been hospitalized. There are days she can hardly manage to open her eyes. But, she always tries to show up for commitments or she’s really, really good about over communication and getting her commitments filled when she can’t even through the pain. I respect her for that.

I have another friend that ghosted everyone for our annual Christmas (zoom) meeting this year, later claimed she had a headache - and everyone mentioned that it was okay and totally fine and oh my gosh is there anything we can do for you? That I don’t personally respect. She didn’t even attempt to send a text and say “hey I don’t feel up to this, apologies that I won’t make it”. Different scenario than falling off a horse and spraining your ankle, but same root problem. And same symptoms of people saying it was fine and accepting mediocrity.


I agree, but the OP doesn’t sort for age or ability, just if you don’t need to go to the hospital, get back on!

So Ammies with older bodies, suck it up! My sister broke her foot landing wrong while dancing and didn’t know it. walked on it a few days because she had to go to work, because her boss is a work-a-holic and judges other by his code. Ended up wearing a boot for 3 months, couldn’t walk at all. So grit doesn’t always work in our favor.

That’s what I’m reading, anyway.


Ah, now I get you! 100%.

Yes, after having been through a few wars, when I see people in general, without even trying, say it’s hard, I have similar sentiments. Trying and coming to the table is the most important ingredient in development. That’s true.

Going forward, I definitely know I will be more careful with my riding because of being an organ transplant recipient. First time that I do fall off, I will call it a day, just because I am trying to protect something vital. But the point is that, like you say, something was brought to the table.

I just hope no one will say “Look at the wimp” when I drag the horse back to the barn! However if they do say such things, I know that I know better for myself.

(Yes, I know this post has awful grammar.)

1 Like

There’s a difference between giving up or not trying and and not doing something because you’re in pain or not feeling up to it. This type of attitude is the reason I went from being very fit and healthy to having chronic pain issues that I will deal with for the rest of my life and falling into a horrible depression where I wanted to walk in front of a bus. I spent three years being told that I was giving up or not trying when I was saying “I’m in pain” and needed medical help, and now I have to live with the consequences of pushing through things like foot pain and back pain. Just because an injury isn’t blatantly obvious or what one may consider “serious” such as a broken bone or obvious blood doesn’t mean it isn’t real. For me, “my foot hurts” turned into “I can’t walk 1/4 mile without being in excruciating pain” and “my shoulder hurts” turned into being unable to lift my arm above my head. Managing that now does actually involve taking a day because my foot or back or shoulder hurts, even if it isn’t immediately obvious that something is wrong because I don’t look unhealthy or in pain and I go to the gym, have my animals at home, etc.


Did you finish reading my post where I mentioned my friend with chronic migraines (“invisible” illness), or did you just get offended and decide to cherry pick part of my post to reply to?