Confidence, it's a fickle piece of humanity. But much like water, we can't survive without it.
If you are going to ride a horse, chances are you are going to fall. Not a case of if but when. Falling is not the only way to loose it, having a break from riding, having kids, getting a new horse, non horse related injuries, unrelated traumas. The list goes on.
I have ridden for *a long time* and I've learnt a thing or two about confidence, how to find it, how to loose it and how easily it can be stolen, so here's some advice on how to find yours and some stories in between. One thing I know is that your confidence is never willingly given away, it is always taken.
As a young rider, I developed a seat that would rival JB Mauney (If you don't know, google is your friend) nothing got me unstuck and most things I would laugh at and kick on. I was the crash test dummy for many a horse newly started under saddle, and it was even my job for a period of time. It wasn't until my early twenties that I had my first major injury that led to me questioning my sanity, I was kicked in the side of the head while leading a horse who spooked. Since then I have had multiple broken bones, most recently fracturing my back in two places.
Naturally I am a person that questions and over analyzes EVERYTHING in my life. So loosing my confidence I found amplified by the hundreds of what ifs. I fought internally with myself for a long time before finally admitting out loud that my balls were no longer the size of Texas and closer to being a pair of frozen peas. I made more progress after talking to friends, and having a cheer squad celebrating the smallest wins.
After my biggest crash, I was unable to get back on for 6 months, I sold my horse and took a breath. Finally, my saintly new horse in tow stepping up to the mounting block was enough to have me shaking in my boots. It was months of baby steps. Some days just climbing on my ridiculously tolerant horse was enough of a step. It was a further 3 months before I was brave enough to trot. I once did six steps and instantly vomited off the side. But then it was eight steps. Then 10, then a full 20m circle. Might've cried that day. Most importantly from that period I have developed my skillset further, and now understand more what I can do to help myself and others.
It's ok to take small steps, it's ok to take steps backwards forwards and even sideways. As long as you celebrate the small wins, because that is what we came for.
Heres a list of things I have learnt over the years to manage your confidence, and also boost your own self confidence outside of riding (believe it or not, they work together to conspire!)
- Talk About It. There is no shame in loosing your confidence, you never know who might be in the same boat or who is available to help. Talking about it also makes it feel like less of a monster under the bed.
- Find your people. Good friends. Everyone needs them, but a cheer squad to celebrate you sitting on your horse and not dying today is absolutely vital. You need the kind of people who are in your corner no matter how up or down your confidence might be. If they aren't there for the lows, they don't get to be in on the highs.
- Ask for help. Get yourself an instructor or coach who can support you through your riding goals. Generally don't be afraid to ask for help, confidence in the saddle comes from a much deeper part of you and pushing yourself in other ways helps hugely.
- Get the right horse. If your horse doesn't make you want to leap out of bed and into the saddle every day of the year, then you aren't there yet. Sometimes it's trial and error, but there is NOTHING wrong with admitting your horse isn't suited to your current needs. But you need to be enjoying your riding time, this sport is too expensive not to be fun.
- Set Goals. "Today I'm going to walk a circle" that's a goal, it's achievable to most and it's someone's Olympics. A small goal each ride is more likely to help you feel positive towards the process than a single longer term goal that seems out of reach. Absolutely set longer term goals, but make them achievable, and use your daily goals as steps towards that.
Always remember; no two people are the same. We are all on different journeys that happen in different ways. Don't compare yourself to others, everyone has a different iceberg.