Some Tips for When You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone

Some Tips for When You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone

I recently did a post asking riders about any current mindset challenges they were having. My last blog post looked at one of them – dealing with setbacks – and in this one I’ll have a look at another – confidence in riding unfamiliar horses.

For many riders riding a new horse will take them out of their comfort zone where things are more predictable and familiar. Being out of your comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable so the key is dealing with that discomfort in a way which will help you, and the horse you’re riding, to understand each other and to be able to work together effectively.

There are likely to be many different reasons why you are riding an unfamiliar horse. Maybe it’s a new horse you’re trying out with a view to buying it. Perhaps it’s just arrived at the riding school where you have lessons and it’s your first time on this horse. It could be that you’ve been asked to ride a horse for someone else so that you can give an opinion on its’ suitability.

Of course there are some professional riders who regularly ride all sorts of different horses without too much thought or concern but I would guess that they would begin their ride taking some of the following tips into account as they get the measure of the horse.


Remember that getting to know a new horse is a bit like getting to know a new person. It takes time to understand and feel comfortable together. Every partnership will be different and sometimes you get the measure of each other quite quickly whereas others are slower to develop.
So, at the beginning do things at your own pace rather than at a pace dictated by external pressures. If you need to stay close to your comfort zone that is OK, just stretch little by little until you are ready to ask for more.

Practice some relaxing breathing and active physical relaxation before riding and also regularly during your ride. As you breath think of breathing in comfort and breathing out tension and do a body scan so that you’re aware of any particular areas of tension then actively breath that tension away with each out breath.
This will help you to stay physically relaxed and, of course, will help the horse too.

Control what you CAN control.
Take sensible safety precautions such as wearing an approved standard helmet, make sure that all tack is well fitted, consider wearing a body protector and have a neck strap.
When you are riding an unfamiliar horse, are trying something for the first time or riding in a new location it makes complete sense to be cautious. This doesn’t mean that you’re a “chicken” and it’s not a reflection on you as a rider it is simply being sensible.
Having someone with you, who you trust and who understands your aims for this ride, will help you to remain relaxed
Again you are doing what’s right for you rather than what you might think other people would do or expect you to do.

Learn and practice positive and helpful visualisation so that you learn to focus on what you DO want to happen rather than on trying to prevent what you DON’T want to happen.
Positively mentally rehearsing your ride before you mount up will help to get you in the best mindset to make the most of this opportunity.
Mentally rehearse, using all of your senses, your horse going in the direction of your choice at the pace of your choice. This will set you up for success.

If you find riding out of your comfort zone to be too challenging then seek support from either a riding coach or a mindset coach. There are lots and lots of things that you can learn which will help you so reach out for help so that you can be more confident and resilient during those times when you are challenged both mentally and physically.

Riding an unfamiliar horse can be a challenge.
Photo credit: Sophie Callahan (as part of the Small & Supercharged Mastermind Group)

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