Everyone gets nervous from time to time - it’s not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean you’re not a good rider!
Here, sports psychotherapist Sharon Shinwell, and Margaret Linington-Payne from the BHS, offer some expert advice.
Sharon says: Horses elicit great passion in people. Many people have high expectations of the relationship between horse and rider. They feel a real pressure to enjoy every moment or reach a certain level of expertise in one discipline. This can be unrealistic given that our body’s highly-tuned sense of self preservation keeps telling us that it’s a silly idea to get on an unpredictable, potentially dangerous horse!
When the partnership fails to live up to our dreams, confidence and enthusiasm levels soon take a dive, but giving up riding altogether is often not a perceived option.
In an attempt to hang on to a way of life in which we feel lovingly entrapped, we’ll continue to keep our treasured four-legged friends as pets or companions. Inwardly we feel frustrated and helpless, but don’t know how to make changes. Each day we hope the feelings of dread will disappear while we sleep, but this isn’t going to happen!
Confidence is something you have to work at – it gradually increases with experience, alongside improved skills and knowledge.
Something as simple as relaxation techniques can make all the difference, conquering the negative voices in your head so you can concentrate on riding rather than looking for something unpleasant to happen.
Sharon Shinwell, specialises in counselling nervous riders.
See www.confident-rider.co.uk for details.
Margaret says: The crucial confidence-building factor around horses is not age or talent, it’s common sense. You’ll greatly reduce the possibility of confidence-sapping incidents occurring if you recognise your limits, ride within them and seek out correct training to acquire better skills. This means choosing horses that are genuinely suited to your skill level, and having regular lessons with instructors who understand your needs and abilities.
Only participate in activities which you can comfortably enjoy without feeling insecure, unbalancing the horse or endangering other riders. Learn correctly even if it means things are a bit slow for a while. If you never learn to ride in balance and to have an independent seat, you’ll fall off much more easily!
By all means have a few relaxation techniques to fall back on, such as breathing or singing. But these things alone aren’t going to turn a nervous novice into a confident rider.
Confidence building equipment
Confidence through a feeling of safety extends to the kit you use when riding. Knowing that the tack and equipment you use is well maintained, correctly fitted and appropriate for the conditions, considerably helps reduce the danger element and potential for accidents. If you feel safety stirrups or a stronger bit give you more confidence, then make sure you use them in all the relevant situations.