In partnership with Equisafety

It can take years for a horse and rider to build up their confidence, and just moments to lose it and find yourself feeling anxious about getting into the saddle. All riders are likely to struggle with their confidence at some point, and it can be an isolating, upsetting and frustrating thing to deal with.

When Your Horse asked our #Hack1000Miles challengers in our Facebook group,a whopping 96% said they have lost their confidence at some point. You can see the full statistics in the graphic below.

It just goes to show that if you’re struggling with a loss of riding confidence, you’re definitely not alone. Read on to find out about one rider’s confidence journey and how hacking helped them regain the confidence they needed in order to get back on board.

‘It made me question whether I wanted to get on a horse again’

It took months before Kirsty was ready to ride Whisper again

In October 2020, Kirsty Walker was in the middle of a lesson when her mare Whisper bolted.

“I don’t know if she heard a noise or spooked at something, but she just bolted across the arena,” says Lancashire-based Kirsty. “She started bucking and all four feet came off the ground. I tried to stay on, but ended up crashing off.

“I broke my collarbone, three ribs on my right side and a transverse bone at the bottom of my back, and my lung collapsed.”

Kirsty waited five hours for an ambulance to arrive, and had a four-day hospital stay. Unfortunately, she caught covid before she was discharged and was bed-bound at home.

“I really suffered with my collarbone — every time it healed, it kept breaking back open again,” explains Kirsty, 53. “I pushed to have it plated, which was done in March 2021 and it was an immediate relief. Before then I couldn’t even lay down.”

In that time Whisper, a 16.1hh Warmblood, remained at the competition yard she’d been stabled at and was diagnosed with ulcers. She underwent treatment and was ready to be ridden again.

“I was quite scared of her,” confesses Kirsty. “I was scared of getting on her in the arena I’d come off in. I kept having flashbacks. It made me question whether I wanted to get on a horse again.”

A new yard and a new mindset

Kirsty and Whisper are now back to cantering

On the recommendation of a friend, Kirsty decided to move Whisper to a DIY yard just five minutes from her house a month after her collarbone was fixed.

It was a complete change for both of them — Whisper went from individual turnout into a herd of six horses with 16 acres to roam.

With the support of people around her, Kirsty began to slowly build up her confidence again.

“I started by hacking her out because in a way, it’s where I’m most comfortable,” says Kirsty, who is a retired HR manager. “I started with hand walking her out up and down the lane outside the yard, and did that for about six weeks.

“Then one day I was with a friend who was riding her pony, and Whisper had her saddle on and I just got on, walked for a little bit and then got off. That was probably eight months after my accident.

“I had so much support from my friends,” continues Kirsty. “I’d have someone leading me, and when I felt confident they’d unclip her and if I got nervous they’d clip her on to the lead rope again. I’d have my body protector and air jacket on, and we just built it up really slowly.”

Related to this…

‘I’m about 95% there — I don’t panic so much’

Kirsty found one of the biggest obstacles was cantering confidently again.

“I’m probably about 95% there. I don’t panic so much when things aren’t going right,” says Kirsty. “It’s definitely the canter that’s been my toughest thing to overcome. If it gets too fast I get a bit worried; I like to be in control of the speed. My days of flying over a field on my own at full pelt are probably over.

“But I’m back to having my weekly lessons; I’m out competing and I’m back to cantering in the school and out hacking.”

This content is brought to you in partnership with Equisafety, the performance equine reflective clothing brand and proud supporter of #Hack1000Miles.

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