In my late teens and early twenties, I was fearless. I was used to riding hunters 16 and 17hh. I could ride a buck, win an equitation class in Working Hunter, and re-train off-the-track Thoroughbreds. I was strong, fit, and balanced in the saddle.
Fast forward to my late thirties…
Three major, scary falls. Thirty extra pounds. Out of shape. Overweight. Scared.
Here I am a week away from my 40th birthday, and I’m still having confidence issues. Just two years ago, I took on a horse with a bucking problem and didn’t think twice about swinging into the saddle after 15 days of groundwork. Two years before that, I started a horse for the first time.
Unfortunately, the extra weight and being out of shape lead to a lack of balance, which lead to three big falls. So… What’s next? My husband suggesting hanging up my helmet. NO WAY!!!
To start with, I was honest with my trainer, who helped me put together a plan for getting my confidence back. We started with going back to the lunge line and talking through my fears. We set small goals. The first big goal was to walk, trot, and canter my horse in the show ring. I was so nervous that I cried when I actually did it!
Now I have three parts to my plan to get back my confidence:
- Get fit
- Set goals
- Keep riding
Horseback riding is a sport not a hobby. Article after after reinforces that a heavier rider who is balanced causes less stress to a horse’s back that a lighter rider who isn’t balanced, but you CANNOT be balanced if you aren’t strong and fit. For most of us, the older we get the less fit we are. Especially true for those of us who have desk jobs! Unfortunately, that interferes with our athleticism. I’ll talk more about this in my next post, but getting fit requires commitment, which means you have to want it. But if I can do it, you can too!
Humans do better when we set goals. We slack off and loose focus when we don’t have concrete, measurable goals. You’ve heard of SMART goals right? Set those for yourself. You’ll find yourself more focused and motivated, and you’ll be more likely to make the commitment to go to the barn and get in the saddle.
There’s one more reason to set goals… Achievement builds confidence!!! 😀
Every time I set a goal and accomplish that goal, I re-gain a little of my confidence. Last year, I couldn’t get on my horse without being afraid. Now, I still have places where I’m not comfortable, and I’m not comfortable with a lot of canter work, but I’m getting there. One of the biggest accomplishment? After 10 months of riding Dressage, I went to a schooling show and won both my classes with 2 new high scores! My goal was to do better by 5 points. My first class was 6 points higher, and my second was 9 points higher!!! I didn’t win the high point for the Adult Amateurs, but I was second. 🙂 I can live with that!
When I get scared, I power through it. I don’t let it stop me. I might manage the fear by concentrating on something I feel confident doing, like trotting a circle, or I might change the environment by riding somewhere I feel comfortable. But I do NOT get off. I talk to my horse, I talk to myself, or I get a friend to talk to me. I do whatever it takes to get past it before I get out of the saddle. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. The next time, you’ll be more nervous.
It isn’t easy, so don’t think I’m making light of this. At my last show, my trainer said, “Smile. You look like you’re going to throw up.” My response? “That’s because I AM going to throw up.” It’s hard to get your nerve back, but you’re worth it, and your horse is worth it.
Don’t give up! Get fit, get goals, and get riding!