I’m going to just assume that because you are reading this, confidence, or the lack thereof, has become a theme in your riding. If so, you are in good company. Unfortunately lost confidence is an all too common issue for a lot of riders.
I say ‘lost’ confidence, because there seems to be an extra challenge in losing your confidence, as opposed to not having any to begin with. Losing your confidence means that at some point you experienced horse riding without anxiety. You felt the pure pleasure derived from just being in the saddle. That ‘oneness’ when horse and rider are just moving together in harmony.
But then ‘that’ happened. Your ‘that’ will be different from other riders ‘that’. What is ‘that’? ‘that’ is the catalyst that changed everything for you. It might have been a one-time event, such as a fall or bolt. It may have been something that built slowly, simmered away so to speak, before finally boiling over – and we all know that once it boils over, things are never the same afterward, are they? Or ‘that’ might just be the story you have been telling yourself, which has somehow become a part of your reality now…
Regardless of what ‘that’ is for you, the sting in the tail is that you know how good riding can be, how good you can be, if you could only get things back on track. And it is often that sense of loss that is the most frustrating, maddening and often heartbreaking part of losing your confidence in the saddle.
However, you CAN get it back. In fact, you can begin right now – this moment today – turning things around and rebuilding your confidence, inch by inch.
Will it be easy? No, probably not, but the fact that you are still reading means that it is important for you. Important enough to do the work, put a little effort in, and to have all those lovely experiences again when riding your horse.
What can you control?
Let’s start by becoming very clear on what you CAN control. Once you have identified those, you are going to shift your focus to doing just that – controlling what you can, rather than what you can’t.
You can control how your body works in the saddle. Working on your fitness levels, first and foremost. Know that when you ask your body to do something, it can do it. Things like applying clear aids, maintaining its own balance, suppleness to move with the energy underneath you when riding… (You can join the FREE 30 Day Rider Fitness Challenge HERE)
You can also control your thoughts… Pretty simple when written down, however I know that this is as easy as it sounds. Visualise daily what you want your riding to look and feel like.
If you find any anxiety creeping into your ‘daydreams’, simply dismount and get comfortable again.
A lot of confidence issues stem from what we ‘think might happen’, so rather focus on what you ‘want to happen’. Consistent purposeful thinking and keeping a journal will definitely help you with making this a habit.
What do you really want?
Make sure that what you are trying to do is what you really want to do… Sometimes a lack of confidence can be traced to an increase in ‘common sense’ that comes with getting older and more mature.
Worried about falling off while galloping across country? Do you really need to gallop across country any more? Would you not be happy trotting on a trail? Cantering over a hill?
Maybe, maybe not – but either way, make sure that your lack of confidence is not a symptom of growing up and having responsibilities…!
Do you have the right partner?
From here, finding the right horse is ESSENTIAL to building your confidence. If your confidence issues are centered around your own horse, is there another horse you can use for a while? Perhaps a riding school horse or a lease horse?
You need a horse you can trust. A horse that will pick up the slack when you have moments of doubt, which will inevitably happen. A horse who will work with you, rather than against you.
Start small and build a strong foundation
If you can, start small – really small – with basic groundwork. This way you can set up your boundaries with the horse while working in a way that you feel in control (there is a 4 part, step-by-step, series on groundwork in Daily Strides Premium if you are interested in this HERE).
There are many things such as pressure and release that you can first implement on the ground before transferring over to later in the saddle. I have written a blog post on this topic HERE
Invest your time in your comfort zone
From here, I would suggest doing only what you are comfortable with – and finding a sympathetic but confident person to help you get back into the saddle. This could look like just riding a circuit of a round pen in walk while being led. Or it might look like sectioning off a 20m x 20m piece of an arena or field. Whatever allows you feel like you are in control and can cope.
I think there are certain situations where ‘just do it’ helps, however I have yet to find a rider where this approach yielded long-term results when it comes to rebuilding confidence.
Rather stick to what you feel comfortable with, and begin to ‘train’ yourself to ride without any anxiety. From here, slowly (literally inch by inch) stick your toe out of the comfort zone for short periods, but where you know that you can instantly return to whats comfortable if necessary.
Give yourself time & the Confidence Collection
However, if you choose to being rebuilding your confidence, having the right resources there to support you is vital. Time is one of the most essential factors that is most overlooked. This WILL take time. You probably don’t want to hear that, but having realistic expectations is another essential component of this rebuilding process.
Another resource you could use is the ‘Confidence Collection’ inside of Daily Strides Premium. It contains audio programs to listen to either in or out of the saddle that will help you better understand different aspects of riding – and rebuild your confidence, step by step. You can join Daily Strides Premium HERE
Whatever you decide to do, please do something. I wish you nothing but the best going forward from here and getting back in the saddle.
Please remember to not rush this process; you are doing this for you. Take all the time you need to make sure it is an enjoyable experience; that is the reason you want to ride, anxiety free, in the first place.