In the first part of this short series on confidence we looked briefly at the emotional stages of lack of confidence and how it can affect us. A crisis of confidence can come at any time during your career with horses.
Some riders report feeling unsafe around horses after having children or taking a long break away from the equestrian world. Others have an accident or injury that understandably makes them nervous once they’ve recovered from any physical wounds. And some riders, like myself, have always been nervous and often ask themselves why they put themselves through the experience in the first place.
The answer to that is simple – people are drawn to horses for the sheer love of it – and once horses are “in your blood” there’s no going back.
As I’ve said before, the only useful question you can ask yourself when you’re suffering with nerves is “What can I do to overcome this?” and here is what worked for me.
Take a step back
Stepping back and giving yourself a break can be tough, especially if you’re still largely in denial about your crisis of confidence. It can also be hard if you’ve given yourself a deadline to be back in the saddle. Whether this deadline is real, such as a big competition coming up, or imaginary it doesn’t matter – it all adds to the pressure.
If you’re concerned about your horse becoming unfit or bored during your break from the saddle then find someone else who can ride him for you. Sometimes just seeing your horse behave for someone else can give you enough confidence to put your foot in the stirrup and get back on.
Be open and honest
As well as being open and honest with yourself it’s important to be open and honest with those around you about how you feel. Every rider has felt nervous at some point and you’ll find it easier to face your fears with the support of your fellow horsey friends.
For example, if the thought of going for a fast hack fills you with dread tell the person you’re riding with you’d rather stick to a steadier speed. After a few steady hacks you might surprise yourself by wanting to take it up a pace.
When you’re having a lesson you’re forced to concentrate on what your instructor or trainer is telling you rather than what the horse may or may not be doing. Take it from me; it’s difficult to worry about the horse spooking if you’re concentrating on your outside leg not flapping about like a flower in the breeze!
If money is tight you don’t even have to use an instructor. For me, having my Mother on the ground reminding me of some of the basic principles of riding was enough to make me forget about my nerves. A trusted friend or family member could do the same thing for you.
Keep it simple
As I said above, I wasn’t doing anything complicated in my “lessons”, I was just running through the basics to keep my mind off my nerves. Even top riders need to remind themselves of the simple things and we could all do with brushing up on our rein changes or square halts from time to time!
Don’t worry about your horse being wasted
We all like to think of our horses as superstars, personally I hope my pony will turn out to be a miniature version of Valegro, but so far it’s looking unlikely!
The problem with thinking like this is that you then tell yourself your horse will be wasted with you if your nerves mean you’d rather stick to short hacks instead of competitions.
Realistically, your equine partner isn’t going to care what he does as long as he’s fed, watered, and kept in the manner to which he has become accustomed. If your nerves mean you need time away from riding then roughing your horse off and giving him a break might be the best thing for both of you.
In the next, and final part, of this series on tackling confidence issues I’ll be looking at a few more ways of keeping your nerves at bay and discussing what happens once you’ve conquered your fears.
More about the author here: Alice-Rose Brown
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