I should have said at the beginning of this series that I’m not a top rider, not a sports psychologist, and not a riding instructor, but I am a nervous rider. What I hope I have conveyed to you in this series, from one nervous rider to another, is that your confidence issues don’t have to rule your equestrian life – you can beat them. After writing last week’s article I felt that there were a few more tips I could give you to help you boost your confidence. So here they are:
Taking things steady is probably one of the biggest tips I can give to anyone struggling with their confidence. We all like to think that once we’re back in the saddle everything will be fine, but it doesn’t always happen that way.
Even if your dream is to ride around Badminton it doesn’t matter how many steps it takes you to get there. Sometimes just spending 10 minutes in the saddle walking around the arena is enough to give you that initial confidence boost.
Personally, my dream is to qualify for the BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championships at Olympia, but having had my confidence knocked by my young pony last year quite frankly I’ll be pleased if we can manage a sedate walk around the field by the end of the year!
Ignore, ignore, ignore
The other top piece of advice I would add to the tips given in my previous article is to ignore what people say. Livery yards are known for their gossip, it seems to be part and parcel of owning a horse, and we’ve all been the subject of the occasional rumour.
Just do what makes you happy and work at your own pace. You’ll be the one having the last laugh when your confidence returns and you’re out there achieving your dreams.
My final piece of advice, and something we could all do with remembering, is breath!
When you feel yourself getting nervous just take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and smile. If you’re concentrating on your breathing and you’ve got a beaming smile on your face you’ll find it hard to be nervous.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” wasn’t a phrase originally associated with horse sports but sometimes faking confidence will help you get on with the task in hand until you feel truly confident in the saddle.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it has helped you even in a small way to start tackling your confidence issues. I’ve been there, I’ve gotten the t-shirt, and I know how hard it can be. Equally, I also know how great it feels when you push your lack of confidence aside and really enjoy being with your horse!