Keeping control of your horse in an open space such as a field or out on a hack can be challenging, particularly if he spots his friends in the next field or the freedom goes to his head.
The aim of the game is to make him think that open spaces are pretty ordinary and nothing to get over excited about, so spend as much time as you can with your horse relaxing away from the arena.
-Ride him calmly in a new field
-Lunge him in an open space or long-line him down a quiet lane
The more time he spends outside with you in a calm and controlled environment, the more relaxed he’ll become when you take him to new places and ride new routes out of your arena.
Rosie’s top tip
If you’re particularly nervous about venturing out of the arena alone, enlist the help of an experienced friend to either walk alongside you on foot or ride with you at first – but make sure their horse is a sensible, confident type who will happily take the lead.
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If, like many riders, you’re a bag of nerves come competition day, your horse will feel those nerves too. As he senses your anxiety, it’s possible he’ll start to mirror what’s going on inside your head so, for some simple advice from our expert Caroline Putus, to help you maintain calm throughout your competition day, read on.
“When nerves take hold the most important thing to do is to ensure you ground yourself before you even start handling your horse,” says Caroline. “If you start to get anxious while handling, move away from your horse and calm yourself before going back. As soon as you start to feel uncomfortable, take a few calming breaths.”
Here are three simple tips to help:
1) Calm your breathing
- Make your breathing as slow and rhythmical as you can
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
- Take twice as long to breathe out as you did to breathe in. This is the key. An easy way to do this is to count (e.g. breathe in to the count of three and out to the count of six)
2) Just relax
- Relax your stomach and abdominal muscles - this will make you feel more relaxed and more grounded and your horse will respond to this
3) Use homoeopathy
- The homoeopathic remedy Gelsemium is fantastic for performance nerves. Take one tablet on the day (only take this remedy as and when you need it)
- Finally, Bach Flower Remedies may also help.
For more information visit www.carolineputus.co.uk
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We don't instinctively know how to be perfect horse owners - we learn through education and occasional trial and error. Read on to discover how to avoid making the most common mistakes
1. Feeding incorrectly
It’s not surprising equine nutritionists see lots of horses who aren’t being fed correctly. The most common mistake is not feeding the correct amount because you’re not really sure how big your horse is.
“Find out what your horse weighs by using a weightape and condition scoring,” says Katie Williams, equine products manager at Dengie. “Then you’ll know if he’s too fat, too thin, or just right and you can decide what feed is most appropriate. Call different feed companies for advice to see which type of diet will suit your horse best – there are different ways to get the same result.
“Find out exactly how much to feed and pay attention to the details on the back of the feed bag. Feed by weight, not bulk, so weigh feed rather than measure it – a scoop of nuts is a different weight to a scoop of fibre.
“Feed can also help with performance and behaviour issues. If your horse has too much fizz, or lacks stamina, you can help by changing his feed.”
2. Using the wrong tack
If you’re having problems with your horse, check your tack isn’t to blame. Jeffries’ Dave Darley has plenty of advice.
“Start with sensible tack – go for a snaffle bit and cavesson noseband and don’t change a bit because certain people use them or they look good. You may have to pay more for the best quality tack, but if you buy cheap, you can end up buying twice.
“Have your saddle and bridle fitted by a qualified master saddler – bridles can come in components and you’re likely to get a better fit than with off-the-peg. Have your saddle professionally fitted, maintain it, and have it regularly checked.
“Don’t expect tack from one horse to fit another, and if you’re buying a new horse, find out what tack he’s been ridden in before. Clean your tack with a natural, fat-based dressing, but never saturate new tack in oil. Finally, research the tack you want to use, and make sure you know how to recognise quality. There’s a useful video atwww.corporatedvd.co.uk/jeffries.htm where you can see how much work goes into well-made leatherwork.”
3. Failing to ask for help
We’ve all experienced horsey doldrums, but are you suffering in silence when you could be getting help?
“We’ve all been there, pros and amateurs alike,” says Sandie Chambers, sports psychologist with Humans and Equines. “Many riders spend time on their riding and their horse’s condition but neglect the mental side of things.
“A sports psychologist will help you take control of your mind and use it to your advantage, rather than let it destroy your confidence and limit your beliefs. They will set goals to achieve a specific well-formed outcome. We can also help make unconscious reactions more positive – for example, changing competition nerves for competition excitement.
“Sports psychologists have a bagful of strategies and techniques to help you ride better and achieve the results you want.”
4. Comparing yourself to others
If you’re struggling to progress in your competing, or at home, it can be frustrating to see your friends overtake you. But comparing yourself to other riders can be demoralising.
Young eventer Emily Llewellyn has won individual and team gold at the Young Rider European Championships, and understands the pressures riders put themselves under.
“In the past I’ve had things go wrong and felt like it’s the end of the world. What you have to do is look at riders who are beating you and break down their performance. Examine how they’re riding, why they’re winning and ask, what things are they doing right? Can you emulate them? Compare yourself to riders the same age and standard as yourself, and don’t be afraid to make friends.
“Remember, riding isn’t a race to get to the highest level as quickly as possible – stand outside the situation and get some perspective. Perspective, along with a balanced, level-headed attitude, has helped me, and should help you, too.”
5. Having the wrong routine for the horse
Horses thrive on routine. Eventer Kate Walls, who runs a competition and rehabilitation livery yard in Lincolnshire, explains that problems including weight loss, tension and bad behaviour can result if a horse is kept in the wrong routine.
“A good yard should follow the golden rules – it shouldn’t be too noisy and there should be an established daily routine of feeding, turnout and exercise, determined by the horse’s needs and not the owner’s.
“Make sure your routine provides enough exercise for your horse to do the job you want him to do – you can event up to around Novice level on an hour’s work a day but, above that, you should add hill work and fast work to increase fitness. On the other hand, if your horse is a veteran, or very young, he shouldn’t have too heavy a workload. And always ask for help if you need it. If you’re keeping your horse on a routine that makes you struggle because of lack of time, it’s worth considering moving to a more inclusive livery package, for your own sake as well as your horse’s.”
6. Wasting money
We’ve all popped into the tackshop ‘just for a look’ and come out laden with goodies. But do any of them really help our horses? The answer is ‘no’, according to Grand Prix dressage rider Lucinda McAlpine, whose horses are all barefoot, and live out 24/7 without rugs.
“I believe horses need three things – free-roaming movement, grazing and a social life. Spend your time and money on finding a yard with access to those. You don’t need rugs – the horse generates heat himself and his coat is better than any rug. You don’t need the same tack as top riders, just whatever is comfortable for your horse – mine are all ridden in rubber snaffles.
“Don’t waste your money on gadgets that promise miracle results. I maintain you don’t need to spend lots of money on farriery either. My horses are all barefoot and just need their feet trimmed.”
7. Not having proper lessons
Patrick Print, FBHS and chairman of the BHS, travels the world teaching both riders and other instructors, and maintains “lessons are crucial for developing your position and a deep, secure seat. Learning to ride well is learning to ride safely. An accredited BHS instructor will be insured, have first aid training, and a child protection certificate. Some people go to a famous rider for lessons but an exceptional rider isn’t necessarily a good teacher.”
He adds that a good instructor “should evaluate you and discuss any problems. Avoid anyone who makes you feel discouraged, demoralised, or spends all their time on their mobile phone. Also avoid someone who’s constantly getting on your horse – they should be able to work from the ground. They should also be able to teach any level of rider and talk to you in plain English you understand.”
Visit www.bhs.org.uk to find a BHS instructor in your area.
8. Neglecting proper farriery
Your farrier might be one of the most important people to be involved with your horse – that’s the view of expert farrier Haydn Price.
“I believe there are no boundaries to the ways in which your farrier can help your horse. It can be tempting to try to stretch your money by having your horse shod less often, but this can lead to soft tissue injuries like corns and, ultimately, vet bills. Farriery is crucial to your horse’s health and welfare, and it matters at every level, even just for pleasure riders.
“However, don’t feel you have to go along with whatever farrier already visits your yard. Find someone who takes the time to listen to problems you might be having and communicates with you well. A good way to choose a farrier is to ask how quickly they can replace a shoe – if it’s a week, that’s too long. If it’s 24 hours, that’s what you’re looking for, even if you have to spend a few more pounds for their services.”
9. Blaming the horse
It’s a familiar feeling – that red-faced, frustrated seething, as yet again you ask, why won’t he do what I want? It’s a feeling Intelligent Horsemanship guru Kelly Marks helps riders work through.
“Imagine yourself before a jury,” she says. “In front of them, you manage to prove that, though you’re doing everything right, the horse is still not doing what you want, so everyone agrees it’s not your fault. What then? Will your horse apologise?
“Let’s say my horse isn’t changing leads and I’m absolutely sure I’m doing everything clearly and precisely. Here’s what to check: Is he in physical discomfort? Have I got the basics in place – can he perform every step up to the requested movement calmly and precisely? Has he sufficient motivation to perform the action – what’s in it for him? Is my frustration causing the horse to be stressed and confused?
“By taking responsibility, you claim the power and put yourself in a stronger position to think through the changes to get the results you want.”
10. Neglecting rider fitness
The fitter and more balanced you are, the better your horse will be able to perform. It’s something that rider fitness expert Jon Pitts sees in his work with members of the equestrian Team GB.
“Your weight is a significant load to the horse, so if you have some to lose, increase your exercise and follow a sensible diet. Riders need good balance, too, quick reaction times and good pelvic stability.
“Don't be a hero and ignore an injury to yourself. If you’re in pain, you’ll compensate and create an imbalance that will affect your horse, causing him to perform less well. Seeing a physio can be a good idea, especially one who understands riding.
“And pay attention to everyday things like mucking out – lift properly and use your body correctly.”
Being an effective rider starts in the mind first – if you think positive and believe in yourself, a better relationship with your horse will follow. To help you become the confident, fantastic rider you know you can be, follow Tina’s top tips:
You might laugh, but how much time do you actually spend holding your breath when you’re riding?
Think of something neutral, like today’s breakfast. Notice your breathing rate and how your body feels – relaxed all over or tense in places? Think of something that makes you happy and joyful and notice what happens to your breathing and the tensions in your body. Now, think of something that worries you. Notice what happens in your body: where are you tensing up and how has your breathing changed? Play with thinking of the worrying thing, but breathing like you’re happy. What happens to the worry? Next, think of something fear-inducing. Focus on your breathing and count four breaths in and four breaths out, and do this 10 times. What happens to your fearful thought?
Power of your imagination
It’s all too easy to imagine something horrible happening – those ‘what if’ thoughts. Have you ever noticed that if something happens, like the horse spooks, in that moment you cope perfectly well and feel nothing? It’s afterwards when you start to feel the fear.
Take a ‘what if’ that worries you and follow it through to a positive outcome – an outcome where you remain in control, or regain control and feel safe and happy. What happens to the feeling of fear? It might not go away completely, but you should feel calmer and more relaxed.
Stay in the moment
If we’re thinking about something that’s just happened, or might happen, we lose focus on what’s happening right now. It’s easy to wander off into thoughts of what to make for dinner, for example. But your horse is only ever aware of ‘now’ – his mind isn’t wandering.
Sit in your armchair and focus on the feeling: the sensation of your legs supported by the seat and the chair back against yours. Feel your feet on the floor, and so on. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the feeling of sitting in the chair. Increase the amount of time you can spend just sitting and being aware of the feeling, until you can sit in the moment for as long as you would usually spend with your horse.
Plan of action
Let’s take two extremes: if your fear is huge and you desperately want to beat it – for example, you’re so afraid you won’t even get on your horse – set yourself a series of tiny goals.
Your end goal might be to hack out with a friend, but your first goal should be to simply mount your horse, sit on him for one minute and then get off. This is a huge step forward. Your next goal might be to mount and have a friend lead your horse for five minutes. Your next goal might be to mount and walk around without being led for five minutes, and so on. At the opposite end of the scale, perhaps you’re planning to compete up a level next season? Your action plan of tiny goals might start wit h a truth session with yourself about all your concerns in going to the next level, and then picking them off one by one to deal with. Take each one and break it down into small chunks, so your action plan ends up as a list of things you can tick off every day.
Start an ‘I did it’ diary
It’s all too easy to focus on how far we have to go, rather than how far we’ve come. Keeping a diary of every step achieved is a great way to keep celebrating successes and reminding yourself that you’re moving towards that goal. It’s good use of your armchair time and will make you focus on the positives that happen every day.
When you venture out you have to be prepared for the unexpected but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your fate in the hands of the gods. Here we offer some handy advice to help you stay on track during every hack using the dreaded plastic bag as an example!
We all know the one - the plastic bag flapping in a hedgerow! It's an all-too-common sight and often horses will react to by planting their feet and refusing to move an inch closer.
When to react?
The key is to react as soon as you see the obstacle ahead. Every horse’s comfort zone will be different but once your horse has reached his limits his confidence will rapidly desert him and he’s likely to slam on the brakes. Once your horse has stopped, it’ll take a lot of effort to get him moving again, so the trick is to keep him going forward.
If you back off your horse will take this as confirmation that there’s something to worry about, so if you’re trotting, keep trotting.
Try also not to make too big an issue out of the spook. If your horse will go past the hazard, even if he gives it a wide berth, you can compromise. You’re not giving in – you’re still getting past and travelling in the right direction.
Keep him moving
If your horse does come to a complete standstill, you simply need to get his feet moving. If he won’t go forwards, get him moving sideways. Ride turn on the haunches – anything to get his front feet moving again. With any luck this will also take his mind of the spooky object.
Prevention is better than cure!
To avoid running into difficulties in the first place, try setting up some hazards in your arena or a small schooling area on grass to help your horse become accustomed to new things. Leading and long-reining your horse around and over things such as tarpaulin, cones and umbrellas will help to build his confidence when faced with unfamiliar objects.
As well as learning the physical skills which will lead you to confident riding, it’s possible to think yourself into a more confident state of mind.Read More
Riding is a risky business, and falling off an occupational hazard, but thanks to a new equine simulator, riders can learn how to deal with a common type
of fall as safely as possible. The British Racing School (BRS) has the UK’s first Equichute, which reproduces a ‘front door’ fall over the horse’s head with the aim of getting riders to instinctively roll as they fall, with head tucked in and dominant arm extended across the body. Before trying the simulator, trainees do exercises you can try at home – add in your skull cap and body protector once you’re comfortable.
Only try these exercises if you’re fit and well, and always practise on a gym mat or other suitable surface, with plenty
of room. Stop if you experience any pain. If in any doubt about your ability, consult your doctor first.
1. Practise forward rolls Falling off generally means being upside down, which can be confusing, but getting used to this sensation means you’re better able to influence how you fall.
2. Eliminate hesitation Once you’ve mastered forward rolls, work to make it instinctive by walking into them – stride purposefully forward and just flow into it. Getting rid of any pause can mean the difference between landing face first and falling safely.
3. Get friendly with an exercise ball Try rolling over an exercise ball in the position you’ll be trying to adopt when falling. Kneel down in front of the ball then drape your body over the top. Curve your dominant arm out and around the ball and tuck your head down in the opposite direction, curving your back. Push yourself up and over – once you’ve got the hang of this, try walking up to the ball, dropping into position and rolling over.
4. Try a judo throw Assume the position you’ve been practising with the ball, with your arm extended out and across your body with your head tucked in, and go straight into a forward roll. This uses the same principles as judo. At first it feels like you’re just throwing yourself upside down, but it helps convince your brain the action is less scary than it thought and makes you less likely to panic.
Recognising you have confidence issues around horses or lack of trust in your partnership with your own horse can be hard to admit, but working out what triggers your fear is the first step to dealing with it and is also essential information for any trainer who is serious about helping you.
The following questions provide food for thought. There are no right or wrong answers. However, you may be shocked at the responses that instinctively spring to mind!
1. Do you feel confident riding with your own horse or pony, but feel nervous around horses you don’t know so well? Or is your own horse the one who makes you nervous?
2. Do you prefer others to handle or ride your horse for you? Is this always, or just in certain situations?
3. Do others experience similar problems with your horse, or does he behave perfectly well for other people?
4. When your horse frightens you, what exactly does he do? How much of it is your anticipation?
5. Did you have an accident in the past and are now nervous about something similar happening again, even on a different horse?
6. Have you just bought your first horse or pony and find it very different to the riding school horse who was so familiar? Or did you buy your favourite riding school horse, only to find he’s changed personality?
7. Have you just returned to riding after a long break such as bringing up a family, and find your confidence is not what it was? Or have you started riding late in life?
8. Do you feel you’re not achieving all you and your horse are capable of, or you’ve lost your motivation to keep trying?
9. Do you find yourself making excuses for yourself and your horse about why you can’t ride at certain times or in certain places, weather or conditions?
10. What sort of support do you get from others at the yard? Do you feel they’re judging or criticising you or your horse?
❑ Have lessons or attend courses to increase your competence in the saddle and on the ground. This makes it less likely you’ll feel out of control in any given situation.
❑ Ride the right horse for your skill level and avoid any who cross the line from challenging to scary. It’s not just your confidence but that of the horse that’s at stake here.
❑ Don’t be pushed into doing more than you’re comfortable with or riding horses who give you no pleasure. Your confidence depends on you making rational choices about which horses you ride, how and where you ride them, and what you do once you’re on board.
❑ Be correctly dressed and have suitable, well-maintained kit for you and your horse.
❑ Decide on your goals and be specific about what you need to do to achieve them. For example, if jumping scares you and you simply don’t want to do it, then don’t! If, on the other hand, jumping is an unfulfilled dream or an area where you’ve lost confidence, get out there and take lessons on a schoolmaster until you become confident and competent.
❑ Appreciate that other factors in life such as age, fitness and time will change your expectations, and this is quite normal. The older we get, the more we appreciate the risks we’re taking and the more nervous we become. Add a few doubts about physical fitness, equipment or life issues such as having young children, and the stress levels go right up. Be ready to adapt your riding so you stay in comfortable limits.
❑ Remind yourself of the good times. Ask yourself why you ride, be sure of what you honestly want out of it and make sure you’re getting it. If this means changing horse, instructor, discipline or livery yard, then so be it.
❑ Be honest about your limits. It’s within everyone’s scope to discover what they truly are and enjoy riding within them. For a few driven personalities, this may mean Badminton – for the rest, it can be that ride along the beach or jumping for fun with friends. Expand your comfort zone by all means, as long as it’s not at the expense of your confidence.
Confidence-building cross-country training exercises that you can do at home, with 2007 Burghley champion William Fox-Pitt.
How do you ensure you are well prepared before you go cross-country? One of Britain’s most talented event riders William Fox-Pitt explains the importance of good preparation before you go competing – with exercises and advice on how to build confidence and suppleness. Riding his world-famous 16-year-old event horse Moon Man, William passes on his expert training tips in this inspiring demo.
This was filmed at Your Horse Live 2007. To see what’s on at this year’s Your Horse Live, click here…
Up and coming eventer Simon Grieve helps you combat your nerves and achieve your competing goals
Fight your nerves
“Even with solid preparation, nerves can still creep up on us. Doubts come into our minds – our own lack of ability, letting our horse or others down, making a fool of ourselves, failure, jumps being too big, dressage tests too difficult, the apprehension of hurting ourselves. As a young
lad, I struggled with my nerves, but plenty of practice and exposure to nerve-racking situations has really helped. I can now channel my nerves to help, rather than hinder me. So, if you’re ever in doubt remember
– practice makes perfect.”
“The correct diet will help boost your performance. Stay away from caffeine, as this heightens your heart rate and can increase anxiety, and try to eat in plenty of time beforehand - an empty tummy will increase that stomach-churning feeling.”
Prepare for success
“In preparation for Burghley, I competed at numerous international events, but my horse Cornacrew and I both started at the bottom, competing at BE90 level. Having come up through the grades slowly we both have a solid confidence in our own abilities. Every rider needs to do this to compete at any level, and this preparation starts at home with the basics. You need to work through these with your trainer, who is the crutch for many a rider in the battle against nerves.”
“It sounds silly, but it’s easy to forget to breathe! Breathing exercises are a great way of controlling your nerves, especially when you’re about to go in the ring, down that centre line or out of the start box. Long slow breaths help to calm your heightened heart rate and expel that twisted stomach.”
Enjoy every moment
“It’s important to try and remember that most of us ride and compete for fun. As I walked to the start at Burghley I reminded myself that there are lots of people who would love to be as lucky as me. So remember, your check list is: prepare well, focus solely on you and your horse, take advice from those you know and trust, visualise your performance in a positive manner, allow yourself plenty of time, breathe, and remember – this is fun!”
Focus on you
“Burghley was a situation I’ve never experienced before – not only was
I nervous, but I saw numerous experienced riders who were clearly feeling the same as I was. I’ve found the best thing to do in these situations is to blank out other competitors. Focus entirely on your own performance, and the thoughts of you, your trainer and any positive supporters. Being influenced by negative thoughts of others is not positive. You know your horse and your own ability and you mustn’t be influenced by other people’s doubts.”
Know your course
“Think through the course or exercise in your mind. I find it helps to go and sit away from everyone and run through the course, jumping each fence perfectly in my mind. For each phase of Burghley I allowed plenty of time to get ready. If you end up rushing you’ll get yourself flustered and therefore your horse too.”
Loss of confidence doesn't have to come from a crashing fall - the general ups and downs of life also take their toll on our self-esteem, energy levels and motivation, all of which affect our ability as riders. Here's how to pick yourself back up...Read More
With hundreds of books and thousands of internet pages devoted to the many and varied techniques that claim to banish nerves it can be daunting to know where to start.
To help you on the road to a happier, more confident you, here’s our round-up of some of the best-known strategies...
NLP (or neuro-linguistic programming to give it its full name) uses techniques to help riders think, feel and act positively.
“NLP is, loosely speaking, the study of excellence,” says confidence expert Becky Chapman. “It’s the art of studying people who are successful in any walk of life, not just horse riding, and ‘copying’ – albeit in a studied and measured way – the techniques that make them a success.” If you feel like giving it a try, visitwww.anlp.org to find a practitioner in your area.
Affordable, simple to take and easily available from high street chemists, many riders swear by flower remedies in a moment of riding-induced panic. “The Bach Flower Remedy Cherry Plum helps to dispel irrational thoughts of death and disaster,” according to confidence coach Caroline Putus. Visit www.bachcentre.com to find out more.
A well-known relaxation technique whether you’re a top sportsman or trying to give up smoking, hypnosis can help to re-educate your unconscious mind to overcome stress and anxiety. Visit www.thehypnotherapyassociation.co.uk orwww.hypnotherapists.org.uk to find a local therapist for a one-to-one session.
Workshops and one-on-one sessions with an expert who understands
your fears can be a great confidence booster. Some offer ridden workshops, while others have a classroom-style approach – find someone whose methods you can connect with.
Try www.ashenequestriancentre.co.uk for details of confident rider workshops held by Becky Chapman and hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner and life coach Peter Doherty; www.enjoyriding.com for courses run by confidence coach and Your Horse Q&A expert Caroline Putus; or www.ridingwithconfidence.co.uk for details of courses and workshops run by NLP practitioners.
Self-help books, CDs and DVDs can be a cheap and effective way of boosting your nerves. For ideas check out…
- Schooling Problems Solved With NLP by Wendy Jago (RRP £19.99)
- That Winning Feeling! by Jane Savoie (RRP £10.95)
- Ride With Confidence! by Liz Morrison and Kelly Marks (RRP £12.99)
- Enjoy Riding by Caroline Putus (available in a CD and DVD package
for £35.47 plus £2 p&p from www.enjoyriding.com)
TFT (or thought field therapy) aims to change the way we think about various situations – a fear of going cross-country for example – and alter our thought patterns. To discover more visit www.thoughtfieldtherapy.co.uk
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 words of wisdom...Read More
We asked Your Horse readers what weird and wonderful things they do to help overcome nerves when riding or handling their horses. This is what they said:
Highlander says: I always carry a mini plastic kitty – no idea why but I’ve had it a long time. I stand around before a ride and just watch for a few minutes. It calms my mind to the work ahead – it gives me confidence.
Kirstyndshaky says: I sing (very badly!) while I hack to stop the nerves, but I fit the lyrics to suit my horse Shaky (eg, Shaky Jakey, so good for me, Shaky Jakey you were dafter than I thought you could be). The farm hands all laugh at me but Shaky loves it! I have to leave the yard by a certain path, I have to brush his mane before anything else, I must use my dressage saddle to hack in, not my jumping saddle…
Smithy14 says: I haven’t got a clue why but wearing gloves while riding gives me confidence. Also singing and talking is good as it reminds you to breathe and also distracts your horse if there’s something for him to spook at.
Natalie.123 says: I always get very hot and stop breathing just before I’m ready to get on. I make myself take deep breaths and try to relax, which is easier said than done sometimes. I focus on the last really positive good thing I achieved with my horse. As stupid as it sounds, I took my horse down the driveway at the yard on my own recently for the first time, not even all the way to the end, but it felt such a big thing that I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Viki1 says: Taking deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth – it’s an old technique but does work. Forget to breathe and your body will automatically stiffen and the horse senses it. I also say repeatedly ‘I can do this’ inside my head or sometimes out loud.
Horseface888 says: I find singing really helpful. When I broke my horse in, that was the only way we could get away from the yard without the company of other horses. Now, whenever I feel her getting tense or nervous, I start to sing.
Kitty 111 says: I love XC but always get really nervous at one-day events so I have to have my lucky whip. It’s black but has a really pretty, sparkly, glittery handle! Also I never do more than three practice jumps before I go in to the arena for show jumping. I always do exactly three practices about one minute before I go in.
Meandthehorses says: I’ve no idea why but if I don’t get on from the ground when I ride I get all hot and flustered. I’m lucky Dolly is bombproof because I have to turn round and slide off her bum otherwise I don’t feel right.
Sports psychologist Debbie Percy shares her advice for building confidence from on board...Read More