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Here’s a re-run of my A to Z of riding confidence, first published a few years ago but always worth re-visiting. I hope you enjoy it.
A is for ATTITUDE Your attitude towards something is the way you think and feel about it and it shows externally in your behaviour. So what is your attitude towards riding? Do you ride purely for fun or are you a serious competitor or, infact, somewhere in the middle? Are you prepared to work hard to achieve your goals and do you accept personal responsibility for your progress?
B is for BELIEF. If you believe that you can do something then you are most definitely well on the way to being able to do it. Conversely, if you believe that you can’t do something then you will struggle to achieve. Changing your thinking (belief) will help you to change your behaviour and this is something that you most definitely can do if you set your mind to it and ask for help if you need it.
C is for CALMNESS. A calm mind and a calm body will help you to focus, ride in a confident manner and achieve your riding goals. It will help you to get rid of unnecessary tension which, as we all know, your horse will pick up on. Calmness doesn’t necessarily equate to relaxation it is simply an ability to be comfortable in your body and in your mind without excessive concern or worry.
D is for DETERMINATION. Decide what you want to get from your riding and be determined about working towards getting there. Derterminedly working towards achieving your goals will help to boost your confidence. Determination is the quality you show when you have decided what you want and you won’t let anything stop you.
E is for ENERGY. Spending time worrying will sap your energy, anxiety can be exhausting. So when you are feeling more confident then you will have more energy to put into your riding. When you give more energy to your riding your confidence will increase. WIN WIN!
F is for FUN. Fun is what it’s all about, or at least I hope it is. What do you really enjoy doing with your horse? What makes you smile? What makes you laugh? Can you have a laugh when things go wrong rather than taking it all very seriously? Have a think about the times when you have had most fun with horses and make sure that you do them again. Simply having fun will boost your confidence.
G is for GOALS. Setting SMART goals will help you to move forwards and out of your comfort zone. Ticking off short term goals and then re-setting is such a useful way of pushing yourself and measuring progress. The by-product of goal setting is an increase in CONFIDENCE.
H is for HORSE. Having the right horse for you and for the activities you like to do with your horse is so important. You can feel as though you can conquer the world on one horse and on a different one may feel that a canter is too far out of your comfort zone. If you are worrying about riding your horse then it’s important to ask yourself the difficult question “Is this horse right for me, given my current level of skill and experience?” Being ‘over-horsed’ can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. if you are worried then seek advice from someone who’s opinion you respect and who has your best interests at heart. Then once you are riding a suitable horse your confidence will return and you can continue to make progress towards becoming the rider you wish to be.
I is for INSPIRATION. Who are you inspired by? What is it about them that you admire? Is it their horsemanship, their devotion to their craft or to their horses, their mental strength? Can you apply these ideas to your own riding and identify areas to work on? Recognising your strengths and challenges will boost your confidence.
J is for JOY. A bit like F is for FUN! It’s not all about making progress and setting goals. When did you last do something with your horse and experience pure joy? Whether it’s simply watching him in the field, giving him a cuddle, going for a quiet hack or having a crazy gallop do whatever brings you pure JOY
K is for KINDNESS. I urge you all to show kindness towards those around you. We sadly often hear accounts of unkind behaviour in the horse world and surely this has to be unacceptable. Differences of opinion can be resolved by good communication and compromise. If you see someone struggling with their confidence then why not kindly offer to listen to them and assist them to find the appropriate help. Kindness makes the world a better place for all of us.
Of course, kindness towards our horses is a must and there is never an excuse for ill treatment of these beautiful animals.
L is for LIFE. How do you fit riding into your life? Or is it how do you fit life into your riding?! Do you plan your riding time into your other commitments or do you feel as though you are constantly chasing your tail and are never able to focus on one thing at a time because you have so many demands? If life is chaotic then why not make some time to do a bit of planning? Mark off those times to ride and then get on and ride at those times without distraction. Time management will help you to focus on what is really important to you, help you to be more mindful and ultimately help your confidence. Give it a go!
M is for (riding in the) MOMENT. Being mindful and riding in the moment is enormously helpful for confident riding. Avoiding trying to anticipate what could happen in the future and making sure that you aren’t unnecessarily holding on to past events is so important. If your horse is moving in the direction of your choice at the pace of your choice at any moment in time then everything is OK.
It takes time and practice to feel comfortable riding in the moment but it really is worth the effort.