When I was 6 years old, I was kicked in the stomach by a rather naughty pony named Gomez who obviously thought I was holding him up on the way to his dinner. For a long time after, though I still loved horses, I became very anxious around them, particularly riding. It wasn’t until middle school that my family acquired a bombproof Haflinger that I gained confidence on, before moving on to the slightly more forward thinking Tanner, and finally, graduating to a ‘real’ horse and taking on eventing with Merry.
Even though my confidence in the saddle has come in leaps and bounds since the days of W-T-C, sometimes I find myself needing a good pep talk. Self doubt loves to creep in, especially when on on my own in the arena. All those what-if’s buzzing around can be distracting and worse case scenarios can easily start to haunt every other thought. As part of training my own horse, I am required to be a leader as well as a partner to him, and keeping confidence is something I am aware of all the time.
So this article on 5 Things Confident Riders Avoid was particularly interesting to me.
The areas I can improve directly relate to problems #1 and #5 in the article. I try hard to break the cycle of negative thinking, but it’s my greatest issue. This directly relates to my avoiding certain spooky situations. For instance, Foster likes to spook at horses or humans walking up the path to the outdoor arena. I’ve been guilty of allowing him to stop and watch them come up- instead, I should press on with our work. While I know as I’m doing it that it’s wrong, I haven’t made myself correct the behavior entirely.
We talked recently about the rider’s mental game and how it leads to successful showing experiences. But being confident and focused on the positive can certainly apply to everyday riding too, especially when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone.
What do you do to feel confident in the saddle? What are your fears and anxieties that you are currently trying to master?