Whether you are a horse owner, rider or groom at some point in your equine lifetime it is inevitable that you will have a crisis of confidence. This unplanned dip in your self-belief can last a moment or can prove to be a battle to reach the other side. First of all, do not be ashamed, if you ask even Olympic gold medallists they would be the first to admit that at some point they have worked through a tough mental period to get to where they are.
We have come up with a few tips to help you regain your confidence if you have experienced this issue.
Tackling the cause
So why do we suffer from these unwanted periods of mental torture, we know what we want to do but how do we convince the gremlins in our minds that we can do it? Sometimes the cause is obvious, for example after a fall or getting eliminated at a show. These are clear reasons to cause frustration, self-doubt and sometimes even pain! However sometimes the cause may not even be horse related, if you’ve had a difficult or disruptive time in another part of your life that can have serious repercussions on your equine enjoyment. Typically this may happen when you need your equine therapy more than ever. Sometimes there is a physical cause, if coming back from time away from the saddle after an injury, illness or maybe having had a child then your fitness levels and even more importantly balance can have a serious effect on your confidence. Improving your fitness levels out of the saddle can have a really positive effect on your confidence in the saddle. As many of us know riding uses muscles that we rarely use for other activities, I think we all know the feeling when we haven’t ridden for a long time - it’s always 2 days after that we rediscover our ‘Shoob’ muscle.…we’ll let you work out where that is!
Breaking the cycle
There is a saying ‘If you do what you do, you get what you get’ and it seems relevant in so many different situations. In order to break the vicious cycle of losing confidence something has to change. So instead of focussing on the negative or what you ‘can’t’ do instead try to find something that you know is achievable, that you will find enjoyable and that will help to build the solid ground with which to build your confidence on. Whether you need to drop down a level competing and stay at that level until you feel happy, confident and most importantly safe. Or it could be a case of arranging a friend to ride out with instead of going out on your own. The most important thing is to find something, however small or irrelevant it may seem, that you feel comfortable doing and build up slowly from there. The old saying of ‘confidence builds confidence’ can be as true in people as it is in horses, so start small and build up gradually.
Recognise the signs
Unfortunately it is unrealistic to think that once we have overcome our confidence lapse that we will never have to do it again. Each individual has their own signs and triggers that can lead to a drop in confidence so being very honest with yourself and learning to recognise these signs can help you manage your confidence before it disappears. For example if you know that going a week without sitting on a horse is going to make it much harder for you when you do get on then put your safety net in place and arrange to have someone to ride out with.
If you’ve had a bad day at an event/competition don’t beat yourself up for too long (it’s inevitable we all will do this for a little while!), instead seek the help of a trusted trainer or mentor for some positive words and confidence building exercises. There are various professionals whom people regularly seek help from such as Sports Phycologists, Hypnotherapists and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioners to name but a few. Whilst these professionals can help to get you back on track, for the many it is not an economically viable option to regularly seek professional help but surrounding yourself with positive people and positive influences can be a huge help.
So the next time you feel like you’re about to have a ‘wobble’ or you’re feeling a bit down and depressed about your riding then just take a moment to first of all realise you are not the only one to go through this, so don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. Then break down your steps of how to work your way through it and tackle one step at a time. And remember, owning, riding or being involved with horses and ponies is meant to be fun so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!
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