The confidence coach: Compete your horse with confidence

Does your stomach do a belly flip every time you think about an upcoming competition that you and your horse are training for? Perhaps you keep coming up with excuses not to go? Here, Sandie Robertson explains what you can do. 


With the spring season well under way, it’s a time of year where enthusiasm builds, but so does self-doubt. 

I'm going to share with you some of the techniques that I use with riders around the world helping them achieve their goals, dreams and riding ambitions.

Planning for weekend events 

Blocking out weekends in your diary to compete with your horse is super exciting, but can also be incredibly daunting. When the competition rolls around, it can be tempting to find excuses not to go. 

Perhaps, even though you're ready to step up a class, you find endless reasons not to, or you find an excuse to get your trainer to compete for you. 

Maybe you're the proud owner of some stunning new white breeches that you don't want to get dirty or (my personal favourite) you've convinced yourself you need a new saddle before you can compete. 

Have you used saddle fit as an excuse before? 

Have you used saddle fit as an excuse before? 

The slightest stumble on uneven ground is the excuse you've been looking for not to go to the impending show. 

“My horse isn't quite right,” you say, trying to convince yourself.

Well, this needs to stop now. I'm not going to make any friends with this next statement but here it is: STOP LYING!

A confidence crisis 

We can become very skilled at lying to ourselves, and actually get to the point where we nearly believe it. 

But our argument falls to pieces when we don’t go to the show, or we put the breeches away unworn again, or you watch someone else ride your horse.

That feeling is there. You know the one I mean - that feeling in the pit of your stomach that’s hard to smile through. The feeling that travels alongside the voice in your head that says: “I wanted to go but I am not good enough.”

Well I'm here to tell you how to silence that voice in your head and rock those sparkling white breeches for all to see.

Conquer your demons 

Self-doubt affects riders at every level. Add a little confidence crisis to the mix and we can have a full-blown storm raging around inside our mind. 

Whether you're making your first team appearance, or you’re starting out and going to your first show, the thoughts and feelings are the same. The good news is that the remedies are the same too!

3 ways to boost your confidence

1. Fear or excitement? 

Think of a time when you've felt excited and notice that feeling in your body. Then think of a time when you've been scared and do the same. 

Learning to recognise what we actually fear is a really useful tool. As adults, we often mistakenly label excitement or nerves as fear. 

2. Nerves are okay 

Learn to accept that feeling nervous or excited can actually be helpful - your reflexes are sharp and you're ready for the challenge. 

If it all gets too much, do some breathing exercises before getting on and entering the arena. This will keep you thinking clearly. 

One example I recommend is breathing in for a count of three, holding your breathe for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three. 

Implementing breathing exercises to your daily routine will work wonders in controlling day-to-day stress and anxiety in and out of the saddle. 


Breathing exercises

For competition day

3. You have to believe it

Visualisation techniques are great confidence boosters. It helps your confidence to imagine being the fantastic winning rider that you know you are.

Keep it simple at the beginning. Close your eyes and remember a day you rode particularly well - one that has a really positive emotion attached to the memory. 

Let yourself dwell on every detail. Remember the sights, sounds, touches and smells. Our subconscious needs positive input to stay healthy and this is a great way to start. 

Only open your eyes when you actually feel what you felt on that day.

Do this daily and you will be surprised by the results.

Lots of love, Sandie Robertson

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here.