Confidence is one of the key ingredients to riding, as your horse can only be as confident as you are. Feeling unsure in the saddle can turn your equestrian dreams into a nightmare, so here at Bridleway we have put together our top tips to help you become a truly confident rider and overcome any riding worries you might have.
Confident riders always think positively, so don’t be afraid to turn your negative thoughts into positives as this will help your confidence grow. Instead of thinking “I am scared of hacking” try to think “I feel calm and confident when I go hacking”, as this will influence your riding style. Horses can sense your emotions, so if you feel nervous, he will feel nervous. However, if you feel confident and in control, your horse will pick up on this and will also gain confidence.
Get back in the saddle
If you’ve had a fall or your pony has bolted unexpectedly, it’s completely natural to feel a little anxious. The best thing to do is get back in the saddle and put the fall behind you. A good technique is to swap onto a quieter pony for a time as ‘bomb-proof’ ponies help you regain confidence until you’re ready to ride a trickier horse. Breathing exercises are also a great way to relax so before you move off, take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply as this will calm both you and your horse.
Choose a long rein
Before you start schooling or tackling a course of jumps, it’s a good idea to give your horse a long rein and guide him around using just contact from your legs and seat. A long rein helps your pony relax and get used to his surroundings, which is particularly useful in a new place or unfamiliar school. Beginning a riding session with a long rein will also warm up your horse and get you both focused before you begin riding, helping you both be as confident as possible.
Achieve your goals
Setting yourself realistic targets – whether it’s preparing for a tricky dressage test or entering your local show jumping competition – can really help you grow as a confident rider. You don’t need to aim to become an Olympic-ready rider overnight, instead write down which areas of riding you want to improve and focus on making small changes. For example, if you want to improve your dressage position, it’s a good idea to try riding without stirrups. If you want to feel confident out hacking, perhaps partner with someone you know is a confident hacker so that you can learn by their example. All riders have to start at the beginning so setting achievable targets and working towards those is the ideal confidence boost for your riding.