Rider confidence: Taking inspiration from others

Well what a funny fortnight! I’ve gone from “yay I love riding”, to “I’m never getting on a horse again”, to “woo hoo, we should do an adult gymkhana” all in the space of a few days! These nerves are an unpredictable nuisance!

I’ve got no idea why I lost my bottle a week ago. All I remember is Ruby looking at a sheep and me having a complete meltdown!

I think perhaps I forgot to follow my own advice of not forcing myself to ride, got worked up and couldn’t relax again. I would’ve tried singing, but I was out with others and no one wants to hear my amazing(ly bad) singing voice!

Since then, I’ve given myself a bit of a kick up the backside and got on with riding. We’ve taken a break from serious schooling and instead have been playing gymkhana games with fellow liveries who are all old enough to know better!

Ruby can now manoeuvre her curvaceous bottom in and out of jump wings like a slalom skier and it turns out that she can actually move slightly faster than a snail when she wants to!

I made the mistake of challenging a 10-year old girl to a race, with video evidence now in existence of her not only beating us, but also stopping and waiting for us to catch up so she didn’t win by miles.

New goal - ride like a 10-year old who isn’t bothered about hitting the deck!

Channelling your inner child

My first riding lesson as a child! 

My first riding lesson as a child! 

Actually, riding like a 10-year old isn’t a bad idea. I remember being 10 and having fun cantering around fields with my friends, doing somersaults off naughty ponies (yes, sweet looking, dapple grey Poppy, I mean you), then getting back on and cantering again.

We have some confident young riders at our yard and watching them does inspire me to try to emulate that brave gene they all seem to have.

Of course, they don’t have a mortgage, bills or a wedding to pay for, so they don’t have that need to stay in one piece to go to work, but sometimes it’s nice to forget all that and let that inner child play ponies!

Looking to the stars

Taking inspiration from others is a great way to try to give yourself a confidence boost. In December, I was fortunate enough to get last-minute tickets to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Just as we took our seats, my fiancé, Will, pointed to the area where the athletes were to sit and said “ooh, someone’s here. Are they famous?” I looked over and let out a tiny squeal (much to the amusement of the people sitting around us). Were they famous? It was only Sophie Christiansen!

Just being in the same room as her left me a tad starstruck. To me, this lady is a massive inspiration.

Her sheer drive to be the best, despite any difficulties she may have is admirable, added to that the fact that she also holds down a job in the City and is an actual maths genius just takes her to another level!

On that particular night she further amazed me as she was the only athlete who practised walking onto the stage and ran through exactly what she was going to do.

I left the awards feeling determined. If she can be a fabulous Olympic rider and not let anything hold her back, then I can blooming well do an Intro test and no silly nerves are going to get in my way!

Zara had a great attitude when her test didn't go as planned

Zara had a great attitude when her test didn't go as planned

I’m also fortunate enough to live close to Weston Park where international horse trials are held twice a year. A few years ago I saw Zara Tindall’s horse displaying erm… ‘challenging’ behaviour.

Apparently the beastie wasn’t best pleased to be dressaging on a Sunday morning! When she came out of the arena, she simply laughed and said “maybe we should’ve done the cross country first!” That’s the attitude I need!

You don’t always need to look to celebrities for inspiration. Look at other riders when you're at the yard. What is it about them that makes them confident?

I often find myself studying people who I ride with and wonder how they are so calm when their horse is spinning around in circles. What is it about the way they are riding that's allowing them to be in control of the situation?

Although I’m not entirely sure about each individual rider, I've noticed one thing - they just get on with it.

If anything goes wrong (eg. a spook) they don’t dwell on it, but simply carry on with what they planned on doing. This is something I (and I’m sure many other nervous riders) really need to work on!

If all else fails, there’s always the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ method. I’ve spoken to many riders who appear to be the most unflappable human beings in the world, but later admitted to being extremely nervous. The difference between them and me? They just don’t show it.

If you pretend to be confident, eventually you’ll become this person - in theory. I’m going to give this a go over the next few weeks and see how we get on! Wish us luck!