Rider confidence: The lesson

We caught up with Rachel last month after her holiday. She was feeling a renewed sense of confidence, but has that faded? Let's find out... 


Well Autumn is well and truly here. The hi-vis vests are out, the patch of field by the gate is now resembling a mud bath and Ruby is quickly becoming a very hairy beasty!

In my last post, I mentioned how I'd come back from my honeymoon feeling braver and more confident than ever. However, this jubilant feeling began to wear off, so I did the one thing I should've done ages ago... book a lesson!

I had many lessons on Ruby when I first bought her, but they slowly drifted into a distant memory once wedding fever kicked in. This was my first lesson in almost a year and quite frankly, I was pooping myself!

Beating the nerves

Of course, being this nervous was due to no apparent reason. All of my previous lessons had gone well and I'd managed to stay on board (even if there were a few unscheduled gallops!).

One time, my old horse Chico got a bit bored of flatwork and charged towards the cross-country jump at the end of the school - I've never pulled my right rein so hard to make him turn away before he thought about a new eventing career.

Another time, the Rubaloo suddenly decided that a fisherman coming out from behind the hut was far too scary to deal with and turned on a sixpence and legged it, almost mowing down Sam, our long-suffering instructor in the process.

So, with rather wobbly legs and a pony who was less than pleased to have been separated from her haynet, I reluctantly climbed on board and headed down to the arena.

Ruby’s eyes were on stalks as she could sense my jitters and she seemed to notice everything that was slightly different from the last time she went down the path.

A new lorry, a car in a different position and the fork three millimetres to the left of normal were all suddenly highly interesting.

Oh, and of course, the cows in the next field, whom she happily grazed alongside for eight hours a day, were now aliens with the sole intention of eating Welsh skewbald cobs.

Once I got to the school and did a couple of laps of the arena with Sam standing in the middle, I began to relax. I realised that all I had to do was do as I was told and it'd all be ok!

The lesson 

For the lesson, I chose to focus on maintaining the contact, while still moving forward. I seemed to either have a forward-going giraffe or a horse in a beautiful contact that'd be overtaken by arthritic snails.


Sam gave me simple exercises to try such as bending her slightly to the left, then back to the middle, then slightly to the right while gently moving the bit to help to maintain an outline.

She also told me to visualise that my hands were on rails and could only move back and forward, not up and down.

In order to keep the rotund pony moving forward, she told me to kick every time I sat down in rising trot, not using the Thelwell style booting I’d been trying but to irritate her side with lots of little kicks. It actually worked!

With a tail swish of protest, she was finally moving at a decent speed, tracking up brilliantly while I maintained a contact. Result!

I finished the lesson with a big smile on my face and a surge of confidence. I could actually control my horse and make her do what I wanted, which was a massive step forward!


Keeping the momentum 

Since the lesson, I've been able to keep this confidence most of the time. I amazed myself a little yesterday when I rode down the arena, in the rain, with branches snapping off the trees and managed to get Ruby to actually concentrate!

Ok, I was only down there for about fifteen minutes as it soon became clear the rain wasn't going to stop and I resembled a drowned rat, but I’d done it!

I’ve already got my next lesson booked in and hope that Sam will be able to see that we’ve done our homework. As long as I don’t come between Ruby and her haynet, we should be ok!