Work on your confidence

By Ian Banyard

Rider Advice

26 May 2011 16:05

Whether you’re keen to work with others or you’d like to try some simple techniques on your own, here, confidence coach Ian Banyard gives us three easy exercises to help you work on your confidence, whether your fear stems from a memory of an accident or something you just can’t pinpoint.


1. Get some inspiration

Ian likes to encourage group meetings where half of the group are struggling to fight their fears and the rest have beaten theirs.

“Being around confident and inspirational people is brilliant because the very best people to help you overcome your fears are the people who’ve been through it themselves. If you’re around inspirational and confident people you’ll pick up on that.” Speak to riders who are enjoying their riding and doing well – their positive thoughts will help to pick up your mood.


2. Stop and think

When we lose our confidence we stop thinking about the positives in our riding and focus on the negatives. “We have tunnel vision when we panic because fear closes down our senses, and without our senses we can’t be creative or imaginative, we just react,” says Ian.

As a rider or horse owner there’s one scenario that sums this up quite well: Have you ever been at the yard happily grooming or tacking up while your horse is tied up? And have you ever watched as your horse gets his rope over his head and goes full throttle into a blind panic? Next thing you know you’ve got a broken rope, a distressed horse and everyone is red faced and flustered.

From the ground it’s easy for us to see that this situation would be OK if the horse could only process what’s happened without panicking and the same is true of our own reaction to fear. One exercise Ian likes to use in his clinics and one-to-one sessions tackles this problem head on.

“When we feel scared or panicked we react. We don’t allow ourselves time to really feel, see or hear what it is we’re afraid of, so one way to work on this is to learn to pause,” he says. “For example, some people find the thrill of eventing exhilarating, a feeling that some people will interpret as fear. By taking a moment to experience the feeling without reacting you’ll realise that nothing bad is going to happen and you can start to work out what these feelings really are.”


3. Put it in writing

If your fear stems from an accident, event in the past or simply just an issue such as a fear of hacking, write down what your fear is on a piece of paper. Leave margins on both the left- and right-hand side of the page. In the left-hand margin, list lots of words and phrases you negatively associate with what you’ve written down. Now with your negative words completed, list positive words and phrases in the righthand margin that negate the negatives. For example, if your negative phrase reads: When out hacking  I feel anxious and  scared, your positive could be: When out hacking I can feel exhilarated and happy.

Often this exercise is tough, so it’s a good idea to ask a friend to help you. Friends and family won’t be emotionally attached. They don’t share your fears so sometimes they can help you come up with a positive when you feel there are absolutely none to choose from.

And remember, for every negative there’s a positive, you just have to remind yourself what it is.


4. Positive motivation

If you’re a parent, or if you’ve ever looked after children, you’ll know that sometimes they need a little positive motivation.

Perhaps you want your son or daughter to go outside and play, get some fresh air and enjoy some nice weather, but if children’s television is running a cartoon marathon this is sometimes a challenge. So we take it upon ourselves to motivate the kids by making it sound like the best thing since sliced bread – sound familiar?

“What I do is a form of this positive motivation, similar to the way we might motivate a child to do something. I encourage people to look for the positives and to talk and think about them in a positive way,” says Ian.

 This is where tonality comes into play. As Ian explains, it’s common for people to describe a negative accident or event using negative, exaggerated language in a negative tone.

If this sounds like you, try speaking about the event or accident differently. Lighten up on the dreary tones and try to use some more positive language – if you’ve had an accident and you’re still here to tell the tale, that’s a positive in itself! Thinking and speaking positively will help to focus the mind in a different way.


5. Using sound

“Very often people mention sounds in relation to an accident or event, so it’s important to help people change the association to that particular sound,” says Ian.

His advice – sing! It might sound mad but this is something most of us do without even realising. It’s so easy to get a tune stuck in your head, so think of one with a positive association to you and your life, or simply just one you love, and hum away inside your head. Try this on a ride, before a competition, or simply when feeling anxious.

If a negative sound has been plaguing your thoughts a new tune could be just what you need to wash it away.