Summer may be the best time of the year, but when temperatures start to rise, motivation tends to fall. Sweating it out for hours on end at the barn can often make daily training feel more like a chore than an investment in the sport that we love. And while no one can operate on 100 percent passionate all the time, as we move into the warmest time of year, it’s more important than ever to recall the reasons why we do what we do—and to adjust our mindsets accordingly.

So if you’ve been feeling a seasonal dip in your motivation level, never fear. Here are seven ways to put the magic back into your routine.

1. Mix it up!

Doing the same thing over and over again can get pretty boring. The worse part is, this repetition does not help you improve your riding at all. Instead, mix up your training routine with different kinds of flatwork or gymnastics, and change the environment for a breath of fresh air. Your horses will love you for it.

2. Work on your confidence.

Being focused on improvement is great, but it’s also important to acknowledge the things that are already going well. Make sure you always reflect on your training and shows, starting with what went well. Challenge your brain to also appreciate the areas where you are succeeding. That one mistake you made should not outway the rest of the course you cleared and rode beautifully. After acknowledging the good stuff, you also want to learn from your mistakes. So you ask a second question, which is, “What could have been better?” Make sure you use this kind of positive language. Lastly, once you have established what you can improve upon, make a clear plan on how you will train this specific skill.

3. Everybody makes mistakes!

Don’t take your mistakes too personal and see them for what they are: feedback. You can work with feedback, but you can’t do anything constructive when you are only criticizing yourself. So, realize that everybody—yes, everybody, including the top riders in the world—makes mistakes. Better yet, get used to it, as it’s the only way to become a great rider. ‘Perfect’ doesn’t exist, so instead of only being satisfied with perfection, keep working on the small steps of improvement.

4. Take time off to recharge.

I hear it all the time, “I don’t have time to take a day off, I’ve got horses to take care off.” But, where there is a will, there is a way. The benefits of recharging yourself and your horses far outways working seven days a week, 365 days a year. Experiment with different ways to recharge your batteries and your horses’ energy and stay excited and motivated about working hard.

5. Cultivate your will to win.

Striving for perfection kills ambition and motivation. Aiming for that perfect round can actually stand in the way of winning classes. And although I often talk about how we should focus on the process and less on the results, bringing home those ribbons does contribute to staying motivated. So ask yourself, when was the last time I rode to win? When you decide to go for it, make a clear plan, visualize how you will zoom around the course in harmony with your horse, and enjoy the ride.

6. Lower your expectations.

You may have tried the above and aimed to win, but it resulted in your feeling anxious and making silly mistakes. If that’s the case, you want to lower your expectations. Probably the only thing that is standing in the way of doing well is setting the bar too high for yourself. Why not go down a level to feel more in control and to enjoy going for the win? There is no shame in competing at a lower level. There is no need to prove yourself all the time. Paradoxically, moving down a level might actually help you improve instead of staying stuck.

7. Make time to play.

Investing lots of energy, time, and money into your sport or hobby might mean you focus less (or not at all) on having fun. It’s important to remember, however, the reasons why you do what you do, and to smile, goof around, ride bareback, or just spend time with your four-legged friends without any pressure. Again, your horses will love you for it!

-Photo credit: Erin Gilmore.

With a background in the show jumping sport, Annette Paterakis is a performance coach, specialized in mental coaching equestrians. She is passionate about working with riders to help them better understand the mind and to provide the framework for creating the right conditions to reach peak performance.

For more information on Paterakis, please visit her website at apperformancecoaching.com.