Push past your limits! Whoa, maybe not that far.

Push past your limits! Whoa, maybe not that far.

December 16, 2019

A personal reflection on pushing limits, getting injured, and recalibration

Darby Bonomi Equestrian Performance Psychology

A peaceful moment with my "Little Wing"
PC: Alden Corrigan Media

Try harder. Push more. Break through those limits! Does this sound familiar? Coaches and teachers of all stripes, including horse trainers, often push us to do more than we think we can. They challenge, coax, and sometimes even threaten us. It’s an effective strategy, used on high achievers, to get us to mentally and physically reach new levels of performance. When we succeed, we get our favorite rewards—self satisfaction, competitive success, and an endorphin rush.

Our current culture, generally and in sports, encourages us to challenge limits. Run farther, jump higher, do more. Most of us high achievers have internalized this ethic. We don’t even need outside motivation. It’s our guiding principle. Goodness knows, we wouldn’t want to rest on any laurels, or rest at all for that matter.

Of course, I understand this. It’s my mantra too. I’m a high achiever, both athletically and otherwise. I have a firm belief in hard work, doing more than I think I can do—no matter what it is. My pride often rests on my tough, can-do attitude. Rest, me? Only when I take that dirt nap* at the end of the road. 

Well, look whose attitude of no-limits caught up to her.

Let’s just say, I’m down for the count. Actually I’m on the mend now, or I wouldn’t be able to write this. The short version of my story: my push, my drive—without a little tempering from perspective and experience—got me injured. I wasn’t even on a horse. (I was working out so I could be stronger on a horse.) I have done this before, so I’m more than little peeved at myself that I have to learn the lesson again. As most of you know, one of my favorite sayings is: go out and make new mistakes (trying new things), rather than repeat those old familiar mistakes.

As I sat recovering, unable to type, but able to think, it came to me that some lessons needed to be presented to me again. So, I share them here, hoping that they will resonate with you, too, and perhaps save you from having to learn them the hard way. 

Darby’s Guide to Pushing Yourself

  • Listen to your body. No, I mean really listen so you can hear it whisper; don’t make it yell at you. If you pay full attention, you will know if you can do more reps or if you should stop or adjust something. Sometimes pain is ok to push through, but sometimes it’s not. You’re the best judge.
  • Listen also to your intuition. Take in others’ advice, but be sure to remain in the driver’s seat about your own needs, capabilities today, and weaknesses.
  • Remember that recovery is part of performance. Recovery means rest. This includes both your body and your mind. Pushing 100% all the time is counterproductive, leading to reduced performance and, sometimes, injury.
  • Stay away from comparisons. Whatever you’re up to, it’s between you and you. Sure, others might be able to do more than you can. This observation has no relevance for you. You are on your own journey.
  • Ask for help. Not sure if something is wrong? Need a hand with something? It’s ok to get help. Don’t let your ego get in the way. We all need help sometimes.
  • Treat yourself as well as you would your horse. Or at least half as well as you would your horse. Horsemen pride themselves on their horse’s care, and generally spare no expense when it comes to training, conditioning, nutrition, farrier and veterinary needs. I can’t think of a single rider who takes the same care with themselves. Let’s remember that we are athletes too, not just our trusty mounts.
  • Last but certainly not least: learn from your mistakes. This one is number one on my list.

So, along with everything else, I’ll be working on all of these things this coming year. If they do indeed resonate with you, drop me a line! I’ll look forward to hearing about your progress too.

In the meantime, My goal is to have a restful and joyous holiday season—I wish you and yours the same.

All the best,


*thank you, Weston Richardson

To schedule your initial COMPLIMENTARY CONSULTATION with Darby, CLICK HERE.
Darby Bonomi
T: +1 (415) 713-4234
Facebook: darbybonomisf
Instagram: @darbybonomisf 
D A R B Y B O N O M I Ph D
Darby Bonomi
Performance Psychology for Equestrians

For over 25 years, Darby Furth Bonomi, PhD has facilitated positive transformations in clients of all ages.  As a practicing psychologist and consultant, Darby has worked with many people to achieve lasting change and establish the foundations for mental wellness.

Now in her primary role as a performance psychologist and family consultant, Darby merges her life-long experience in the equestrian world—as a rider, parent of riders and owner—with her vast toolbox of psychological and coaching interventions to help riders of all levels and their families reclaim the joy in their sport, leading the way to improved performance and better health. She loves helping clients untangle the complicated situations that tend to arise when horses are added to families.

In addition to writing the wellness column for Street to Stable®, Darby is a contributor to California Riding Magazine, along with publishing her own blog. She serves as an advisor to Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center and is on the Advisory Committee for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.

A dynamic speaker and change maker, clients have sought out Darby to help improve their lives, both in and out of the saddle. She is devoted to making the equestrian world—and the world at large—a kinder, gentler and more respectful place.

Darby currently shows in the amateur owner hunters and equitation with her horses Little Wing and DaVinci, alongside her teenage daughters. She is married and has a college age son who steers clear of the barn. She lives in San Francisco.

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