Confidence – Get it back

If you work with or around horses, confidence will be something that will come and go over time after different experiences.  It is obviously something that we all need when working with our animals but it is also something easily shaken as well. 

I have personally worked through various confidence issues over the last 40 or so years of riding.  The one thing I have learned in all the times a horse has ‘stolen my number’ is that most of the time, I gave it to them willingly. 

I have watched friends lose and regain their confidence, struggling to regain the confidence lost.  Many times thinking that they are alone in that struggle too. 

I am here to tell all of you that not only are you not alone, but that there are countless others that wage the same battle.  

Get back on your horse!

This is something that any rider has heard more than once if they have ever ended up on the ground.  There are two main reasons getting back up there after a spill, no matter how frightened you is so important.  

First, the horse needs you to get back up there to snap them out of the state of mind that they were and likely still are in.  This will help them in the future, letting them know two things.  People will fall off, but most importantly, if they come off, they ALWAYS GET BACK ON!

The second and most important reason is for YOU.  You also need to snap your brain out of the state that it is in letting it know that you also will ALWAYS GET BACK ON too.  I have seen too many riders fall off, not get back on right away for any number of reasons and then out of pure unadulterated fear are unable to get back on a horse, sometimes forever. 

For those of us that love horses and riding, this is like taking away the air that we breathe.  It can be devastating for both the rider and the horse. 

It’s OK to be scared!

Fear is a natural emotion, it is designed to keep us out of harm's way and alive.  Working with horses is an inherently dangerous sport, putting you in harm's way all the time.  Granted it is mitigated by practicing good horse safety, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility.  

That is why they say, it isn’t a matter of IF you’ll get hurt working with horses but WHEN. 

Keeping that in mind, when you are working through your fear, expect that your horse will be working through it alongside you.  Your fear can and will spread to your horse, this is due to your proximity to them.  Your body language will scream it, your riding will scream it and likely you’ll smell of fear as well.  

Where do I start getting over fear undersaddle?

There are a lot of coping mechanisms that you could employ.  My personal favorite is singing.

There are two things that happen when I sing, I am concentrating on remembering the words so I stop thinking about how I am riding, am I stiff, is my horse about to freak out, am I going to cause the freak out by thinking about it, etc. etc.  The second most important thing is that I continue to BREATHE.  

There are two things that humans instinctively do when they are afraid.  They hold their breath and they curl up in a ball.  When you hold your breath it conveys fear to your horse, like there could be a horse eating monster around the next corner. Then curling up in a ball, a natural fear response.  Your horse feeds off your fear and may attempt to run away from whatever the perceived evil is.  As a result you will roll off like a weeble-wobble. 

Singing will prevent all of this, in a pinch I’ll sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, because it is easy to remember and you can belt that out like you're on Star Search.  Although any song will do. 

When you sing you have to keep breathing to get out the next verse. The act of remembering what to sing and the tune will help get your mind off the fear that lurks.  

I’m breathing and singing but I still don’t have my confidence back!

How long does it take to get that confidence back?  To be honest it will depend on the horses you ride and how often you ride.  Repetition is the best and most long lasting ‘cure’ to the fear.  As to how long that will take will depend on you.  Recognizing what caused your fear to begin with and your horse.  There is no fast and loose way to get through a shaken confidence, but there is a light at the end of that tunnel even if you can’t see it readily right now. 

What will it be like when I get my confidence back?

Most of the time you won’t notice its resurgence, because it will be a gradual increase in confidence. You may one day notice that you are doing a number of things that just weeks before you would never consider.  Each milestone will seemingly get smaller and smaller even if their magnitude keeps increasing as you overcome them. 

One day you’ll realize that you have not only come back from the brink of despair.  As a bonus you are doing better than you did before!  You may reflect on a lesson you learned from the experience or some bad riding habit that aided in the loss of confidence to begin with is something you no longer do either. 

The thing is, likely when your full confidence is back you won’t even realize it arrived.

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