Rider confidence: A little help from your friends

Ruby's been put through her paces in the last couple of weeks

Ruby's been put through her paces in the last couple of weeks

Well that was another busy couple of weeks for the Rubester and I. We’ve carried on with our schooling and have also managed to get out on a couple of mini hacks between showers.

In fact, we’ve just returned from a lovely plod with Ruby’s BFF Lola, who was being walked in hand after having minor surgery at the beginning of the week.

Ruby quite enjoyed the gentle pace and was a very well behaved, chilled out pony. Lola’s mum Sophie, enjoyed the walk slightly less as she’s now hobbling around after walking two miles in wellies!

In this post, I’m going to be focussing on the importance of having good friends to help you when those nerves kick in.

A friendly yard

We’re very fortunate at our yard in that we all get on well (most of the time!) and are very supportive of each other.

Livery yards are notoriously gossipy environments where cliques can form and enemies can be made and we’re so lucky that this isn’t the case at our yard.

We celebrate each other’s successes, whether this is a win at PSG (which actually happens) or finally getting your horse to canter four strides (ahem, Ruby).

When I ride, I find that I relax a lot more if I’m chatting to other people around me. I’m aware that most of the time I’m talking utter rubbish, which my friends are kind enough to put up with.

They’ve all been there when my irrational brain has kicked in and I’ve had a complete meltdown because Ruby has jogged about two steps or shown a little bit too much interest in the very lovely (and very out of her league) 18.2hh Connor.

They’re also there to shout ‘kick on’ when they can tell that I’m backing off and would have a much better time if I actually rode!

Coping with peer pressure

Riding with others does have one scary element for me though: pressure.

I feel that I should be doing what the others are doing and I know that my horse is more than capable of doing these things and that it’s me holding her back.

It's easier to relax if you've got someone to chat to

It's easier to relax if you've got someone to chat to

As a result, I panic and means that we don’t achieve anything, which then makes me panic more!

I discussed this with our yard owner, worrying that I was ruining the fluffy coblet.

She was able to put it into perspective for me by saying that Ruby doesn’t know, or care about what she can do and would be just as happy as a field ornament (well, as long as it isn’t raining, or too hot, and there’s lots of grass to munch on and all of her friends are there)!

I think this is important for nervous riders to remember. The horse is yours. You pay the bills, you can do as much or as little as you want to do with them.

As Ruby’s old owner, Tina, often says to me, she doesn’t care what I do with her as long as I’m smiling!

Dealing with negative people

There will always be the odd couple of comments that get to you more than they were probably meant to.

A "does Ruby actually trot then?” from the mother of a livery was less than welcome when we were working in a contact, in a rather lovely forward-going walk, on a nervous day.

Also a well-intended offer to ride Ruby so I didn’t have to made me feel like a bit of a failure as I want to be able to do it myself. I’m guessing over-sensitivity is a characteristic of nervous riders!

Ruby would be more than happy to stay in the field all day with her friends!

Ruby would be more than happy to stay in the field all day with her friends!

You may be reading this as a confident rider who wants to know how to help an anxious friend. I think the best tips I can give you are to listen to their worries and encourage them to take tiny steps out of their comfort zone.

Pushing too hard will only lead to a surge of nerves and further dent their confidence. Also, an offer to be on the ground when they’re riding may help, as in their head that means that there’s someone there to catch the horse and phone the ambulance (in other words, you’re unlikely to actually be needed and are just there for moral support)!

If you’re that nervous rider, please confide in someone and share how you feel. You’ll find that on the whole people want to help and don’t take negative comments to heart.

At some yards there’ll be that one person who wants to knock you down. They can’t if you don’t let them. Ignore it and carry on. This is about you and your horse, not about making them feel better about their own insecurities by belittling you.

Just smile, focus on what you want to do and enjoy spending time with your real horsey friends, who let’s face it, are the best type of friends to have.

They don’t mind that you smell, they understand that you never have any money, and they can get into your car without moaning about the massive pile of rugs, water bottles and numnahs that take up 90% of the space! What more could you ask for?