Rider confidence: Fake it 'til you make it

Your Horse blogger Rachel tells us all about how she's been faking it this month

So finally, Spring is in the air and Ruby is in erm, ‘show condition’. The gullet bar’s been altered, the haylage is rationed, the dreaded muzzle has come out of hibernation and the Rubester is less than pleased!

That’s the problem with being a stumpy cob, she only has to look at a blade of grass and she puts on three stone!

Who are you calling stumpy? 

Who are you calling stumpy? 

In terms of riding, we’ve been attempting the ‘fake it til you make it’ idea that I discussed briefly in my last blog.

The main thing that I’ve found with this is that it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be!

We’ve spent a few riding sessions in the indoor school to build up my ability to pretend to confident.

How cute is Ruby?!

How cute is Ruby?!

I always feel a lot braver riding in a contained environment, even though Ruby’s actually much more relaxed in our unfenced outdoor arena (which we’ve only jumped out of once, blooming fishermen).

Our biggest issue in the indoor is the sound of other horses trotting up the road next to the school.

Ruby doesn’t really mind this that much, she just flicks an ear and jogs a few steps, but for some reason, this spins me into a full-on meltdown!

I deliberately rode at a time when I knew a couple of people were going for a short hack down the lane so that they’d definitely be coming back past the indoor while I was there.

Of course, this made me a little more tense than I would normally be in the school as I was expecting something to happen, but we carried on our usual warm-up routine.

We were trotting a 20 (ish, it’s quite a small space) metre circle when Ruby’s ears suddenly stuck up so far, I thought she would pick up a radio signal!

I could feel the panic rising with my brain about to go into overdrive when I thought ‘stop’, and told myself to deal with what was actually happening (ie. nothing) and not what I was expecting to happen.

I took a deep breath, gave her a kick and within seconds she was back with me, focussed on her work. Phew!

Braving the great outdoors

A few evenings ago, we braved the outdoor arena. For the first time in what felt like months, it wasn’t a windy day.

Better weather means riding outdoors (providing it's not too windy, of course!)

Better weather means riding outdoors (providing it's not too windy, of course!)

On my way to the yard, I pass some land acquired for new builds that has four flagpoles displaying the company’s name.

I now use these as my own personal Beaufort scale. It’s a very technical scale, if the flags are moving, it’s obviously too windy to ride outside without monsters attacking us, so the indoor school where you can hear all of the sounds, but have no idea where they are coming from is clearly the better option.

That’s nervous rider logic for you!

We rode down with Fynn of ‘eagle-gate’ fame. Halfway down the track, I realised that there were already two horses down there and one was *gasp* in hand and both were about to leave the arena!

Carla, Fynn’s mum, is basically my therapist for situations like this and knows what I’m like, said “there are two of us. We can deal with this.”

That’s what I needed to hear. I kicked on and we entered in one piece and ended up having a really good ride. We even got some strides of, wait for it, canter!

Very happy after a successful ride 

Very happy after a successful ride 

For me, the best part of this was that instead of panicking, I was actually using Ruby’s aversion to an invisible pokemon in the arena to help us to move up a gear.

In one corner, she kept speeding up, as if she wanted to get away from something, so I thought, let her, you’re not on your own, there’s someone on the ground (thanks mum!), lets see what happens.

So, the next time we got to the scary part, I relaxed my reins, moved my outside leg back and we actually cantered!

Ok, so a couple of times we were on the wrong leg, and Ruby decided that she had eaten far too much grass to canter for more than a few strides at a time, but we were actually making progress and that was what mattered.

At the moment, with a little encouragement and ground support, the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ method seems to be working.

Now I’m hoping I can keep it up and actually become a more confident rider. Wish us luck!