Don’t let fear stop you from becoming the best rider you can be!
It happens to the best of us… a nasty fall or unruly horse that leaves you doubting everything. You may begin questioning your abilities and whether you can handle your horse or not. You’re not alone! Many riders have traumatic experiences that crush their confidence, but don’t worry… You can get it back and more!
It doesn’t matter what happened or how awful it was. You can regain your confidence. The biggest thing holding you back is your mindset! As you strive to let go of the past and move forward, you’ll have to break down a few barriers. These include worrying about what might happen, striving for perfection, and letting outside distractions influence your ride.
Before you even think about getting in the saddle again, find an experienced rider or trainer that can help you along the way. First and foremost, they can help you evaluate the situation and what went wrong. Reality is that sometimes we take on more than we should. It’s okay to admit your horse needs a more experienced rider or that maybe that jump was too high.
When you’re ready, start slow and follow these steps for gaining your confidence back.
- Focus on your breathing: Before you hop in the saddle, take a few long, deep breaths. Pay attention to the inhale and exhale. As you release the air, mentally tell yourself that you’re also expelling negative energy and thoughts. Inhale positivity! Use this minute to forget all your worries and declutter your mind. Things that happened at home or in the office need to stay there.
- Visualize a good ride: Now’s your chance to picture what a positive ride will look like. Replay it in your head over and over again. Visualization is a proven technique! It’s used by many professional athletes and can make all the difference in the world. Don’t focus on negative outcomes, rather imagine a good ride.
- Don’t ride alone: Find someone who is willing to watch you ride. This person should be someone you trust. They should build you up and not down. Stay away from those that are judgmental, but rather seek someone who’s encouraging and supportive. It can be very comforting and safe to know you have a friend close by.
- Stay in your comfort zone: Let your first few times back in the saddle be easy and fun. Focus on things you and your horse do good together. Reward yourself by keeping the ride simple and short. Remember for every good ride you have, the braver you’ll get each time. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the basics and holding off on the harder stuff. The idea is to end each ride by feeling like you and your horse worked together.
- Forget about time: There’s no deadline. You don’t have to be confident overnight. Think of this… many people buy quick-growing trees because they don’t have the patience to wait around. With the first big storm, these trees tumble over because their roots haven’t had enough time to grow. Good things can take a while! Let your roots grow slowly and learn to enjoy the process. Things that happen overnight are usually quick to fail in the long run.
You can do this! Building confidence is all about changing your mindset. Banish negative thoughts by breaking down barriers that hold you back. A confident rider isn’t worried about what might go wrong, rather they visualize success and take the time to develop a strong foundation.
**Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn’t writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily’s background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.