Ever plan to take your horse out, but feel nervous at the thought of mounting up due to how lively or spooky they might be? Perhaps you’ve had a bad experience or they are just feeling a little over-exuberant this time of year. Either way, there are ways you can feel more confident, as BHS level four coach Stef Eardley explores.

1. Eliminate the risks

It’s not uncommon for a rider to get nervous when they’re forced to ride a fresh horse, so eliminate the risks as much as possible by lungeing before getting on, or making sure he’s been turned out before you ride. Don’t overdo the lungeing though — a quick spin to let him work off any tension should do it.

2. Keep breathing

When you’re riding a fresh horse and feeling nervous, remember to breathe. Breathing deep and slow can help you calm down. Try singing while you ride to help you relax, too.

3. Let him go forwards

Sometimes keeping a fresh horse in walk doesn’t work — it can even wind them up more and make them trickier to ride. If this is your horse, consider making him knuckle down to work by trotting on and working forward into a contact. Just make sure you give him time to warm up first, and don’t do too much too quickly.

He’ll soon settle as he works off that excess energy.

4. Go out in company

Ride with others who can offer moral support and advice if things start going haywire. You’ll instantly feel more confident and many horses relax in company.

5. Ride and lead

Ride and lead if the opportunity arises and you are properly equipped and competent enough to do so. You could ride the more sensible horse first and then swap over halfway onto the more excitable horse. This will give the latter a chance to chill out before you climb on board.

6. Have a lesson

Have regular lessons with an instructor you trust. It’s not a bad idea to let your instructor have a sit on your horse every now and then to get an experienced viewpoint on why your horse may be acting how he is, and what can be done to address it.

7. Enjoy yourself

You should look forward to riding, and if there’s any doubt that your horse isn’t right for you, seek advice from an experienced professional or friend you trust.

Meet the expert: Level four coach and grand prix dressage rider Stef Eardley competes internationally and has represented Great Britain. Stef is also a freelance dressage trainer and para trainer.

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