By / 19th March, 2014 / Articles /

Have you recently had a bad fall and lost your confidence in yourself and your horse?

I speak to riders all the time that have had a really bad experiences, and most of them deal with it by saying “I have to push through my fears and somehow just get back on the horse and forget everything that happened”. Sometimes this works but in most cases it doesn’t. We tend to focus mainly on the physical aspect of riding but forget or simply don’t address the emotional side enough.

I would like to give you some tips and strategies on how you can gently rebuild your confidence in order to get back into 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 really important that you learn from your accident /fall so that you don’t make the same mistake again. Sometimes we end up with a horse that is just not right for us and if that is the case you need to address this instead of putting yourself at risk. If however your horse is suitable for you and it just happened because you made a mistake or it was simply bad management, take the lesson on board and also learn from it.

The first thing that is important is that you re establish the trust between you and your horse. Your breathing, your energy and your body language all reflect how you feel. You also need to understand that horses are flight animals and therefore they take these signs as a trigger 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 more shallow and rapidly, instead of deep and slow which is a sign that we are relaxed. To breath deep and slow you need to breath in through your nose on about a count of 4 and out through your lips on about a count of 8.

Your horse will respond and eventually match your breathing. Sometimes that can take a while (riders generally take longer then horses) so the key is to take your time.

The signs of a relaxed horse are

• the horses head lowers from the pole.
• the 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.
• the horse 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 and tense.

You can have a positive calming effect on your horse by becoming ware 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 these signs. 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. Then 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 you proceed into a walk. You need to feel that ” your horse is fine and its all good” before you move on. Too many riders are in too much of a hurry to get going.


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