Rider confidence: Choosing the right time to ride

Ruby's been enjoying the mud

Ruby's been enjoying the mud

Wow these weeks are flying by! I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to maintain a consistent contact and to convince Ruby that she might possibly like to move her legs a little quicker than 1mph.

We’ve had mixed successes and a lot of this has had to do with when I’ve chosen to ride.

Last weekend, we had a highly unsuccessful schooling session. It was a tad windy but I thought, “no, be brave, stay in walk, keep your leg on and it’ll be fine” and went down to the outdoor arena.

I sat perched on Ruby the whole way down the track, expecting her to jump at any moment, which of course she didn’t. I then spent the first five or ten minutes worrying that something was going to blow over and make her jump, which of course it didn’t.

The next five minutes were spent wondering what the mares were going to do so I kept looking over at the field so of course Ruby did too.

When they did have small stampede, I leapt off before Ruby even had the chance to react, which made her wonder what all the fuss was about.

Getting back on, I nearly landed in a heap on the floor as Ruby spun to see what I was so worried about (much to the amusement of my riding buddy)!

I then did another 10 minutes, but got myself so worked up that we weren’t achieving anything, so I got off and walked her up the track to the indoor, during time which poor Ruby spooked at a plastic bag as I’d wound her up that much.

Ruby and Rachel in the outdoor school

Ruby and Rachel in the outdoor school

Finally, we got into the school and managed about five minutes of good work before the sound of the wind got too much for both of us and we decided to call it a day!

What a difference a week makes

Fast forward one week and we’ve had a fabulous ride, maintaining the contact, in the outdoor arena. This was even in spite a herd of pesky fishermen and dive bombing geese trying their best to distract us (seriously, these geese were no more than an inch above our heads. Someone even wound down their car window and shouted “Oooh that was close wasn’t it”. Yes mate, it was, thanks!)

Now the mornings are getting lighter, my well trained horse-owner body clock seems incapable sleeping past 6.30am at weekends (which to be fair is a one hour lie in) so getting up and riding is a great way to start the day. Ruby is quite used to being ridden in the mornings as this is my ideal riding time.

I find that if I’m not at work, I prefer to ride in the mornings as I don’t have chance to overthink and get stressed about it. I can literally roll out of bed, drive to the yard, give Ruby some hay, then ride without thinking “what if the man is there messing with his bike tyres?” “What if the sheep gallop across their field?” “What if a spaceship comes down and scares Ruby and…..”.

I also find that Ruby is a lot more responsive first thing. She hasn’t had chance to run off all her energy in the field, and then eat her own body weight in grass and is a little more eager to move.

Rachel says not to put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to riding

Rachel says not to put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to riding

This may not work for everyone though. If I’d tried this with Chico, I would’ve probably ended up in a tree as he was a horse that definitely needed to let off steam before riding!

When I’m at work however, riding in the morning isn’t really an option unless I fancy getting up at 4am, which I’m sure many of you do!

Luckily, at work, I don’t have time to worry about riding in the afternoon so it isn’t really a problem.

A few weeks ago, I was driving home, mentally debating whether or not I was going to ride when I realised that I wasn’t trying to get out of riding because I was nervous, but it was because I was tired.

For some reason, my brain hadn’t worked that out sooner, but now I’m able to conquer any afternoon nerves by telling myself that I’m just being lazy and I’m not actually scared.

Some days I don’t feel like riding so I don’t. I make sure that on the days I want to ride, I do. This means that there are rarely any days where I have to because Ruby has had too many days off.

I also find that riding while feeling a bit under the weather or stressed, or when I’m short on time, normally result in unsuccessful rides so there’s little point in doing it.

When I ride can also be influenced by the weather, trying to ride on a windy, stormy day doesn’t work for me as it makes me nervous, so I leave it and ride on a day when the weather is better, and by better I mean grey and a bit drizzly, this is Britain after all!

So think about when you feel nervous. Could riding at a different time of day help you to become more confident? Are you really nervous or do you just not want to ride on that day?

Remember it's up to you when you want to ride (work permitting) so if you don’t want to - don’t. Embrace those positive days, have fantastic rides and use them for future confidence boosting inspiration!

Confidence - hard to build easy to lose!

Methods to increase your confidence