Have you recently had a bad fall and lost your confidence?
I speak to riders all the time that have had extremely traumatic experiences, yet most of them deal with it by saying “I have to push through my fears and somehow just get back on the horse. I need to forget everything that happened”.
Sometimes this works, but in most cases it does not. We tend to focus mainly on the physical aspect of riding but forget, or simply do not address the emotional side.
I would like to share some tips and strategies, on how you can gently rebuild confidence, to get back in the saddle.
Firstly, you need to look back and reassess why the accident/fall happened in the first place.
- Was it because your horse was fresh after a long break and your preparation wasn’t enough?
- Was it too much feed and not enough work.
- Did you put yourself into a situation that was simply too much for yourself and your horse?
- Is your horse too much for you and therefore not suitable?
It is extremely important, to learn from an accident /fall/fright, so that you don’t repeat same mistakes.
Sometimes the conclusion comes down to a horse that is just not right for us. If this is the case, we need to address this, instead of putting yourself at risk. If however, your horse is suitable for you and an incident happened because you made a mistake, or it was simply bad management- take the lesson on board and be prepared to learn and grow from it.
The first thing that is important is that you re-establish trust between you and your horse. Your breathing, your energy and your body language all reflect how you feel. You need to remember horses are flight animals, therefore they take these signs as triggers that they need to stay alert in case of danger which they naturally respond to by getting tense and get an urge to run away.
So, number one- you have to focus on your breathing.
When we are nervous, we automatically breath shallower and rapidly, instead of deep and slow which instils relaxation. To breath deep and slow, you need to breath in through your nose on about a count of 3 and out through your lips on about a count of 6.
Your horse will respond, and eventually match your breath. Sometimes that can take a while (riders generally take longer than horses) so the key is to take your time.
The signs of a relaxed horse are
- Lowering head from the poll.
- Ears become soft and one ear, generally the inside ear, will come back to the rider to check in at the end of the riders outward breath. (When you breath out make sure you let go of all your breath.)
- Starts to give out a deep sigh or even a big breath out.
- In a halt when a horse feels safe, it will often rest a leg, which never happens when it is alert or tense.
You can have a positive calming effect on your horse, by becoming aware of your breathing, when you are on, or standing next to your horse.
So the first step to rebuilding your trust with your horse is to concentrate on your breathing and to look for the signs of calmness and relaxation.
Start before you get on, and you will find it is easier to change your breathing when you are standing on the ground where you feel safe.
Repeat the same exercise when you are sitting on your horse in a halt. Give yourself permission to wait until you get all of the above signs, before proceeding into a walk.
You need to genuinely feel that ” your horse is fine and it’s all good” before you move on.
Too many riders are in too much of a hurry to get going.
TAKE AS LONG AS IT TAKES – Calmness & confidence has never come from mental or physical force..
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