Top 10 Mental Strategies To Banish Equestrian Fear
And Boost Horse Riding Confidence
Margarethe de Clermont
One thing I have learnt during my struggles to become a better
horseback rider is definitely non-negotiable: Whatever it
is that you want to achieve with your horse and your riding,
there is one fundamental concept you have to accept in all
its complexity: you have to exercise you mind with as much
diligence as you exercise your body.
There is a vast variety of mental exercises at the thinking
rider's disposal: mental rehearsal, anchoring, resourceful
state induction, eradicating limiting beliefs with affirmations,
reframing, perceptual positioning and many more at least one
to suit every rider, though most riders prefer to use their
own combination of techniques. The following ten are some
of the greatest confidence boosters for horseback riders.
1. Start by accepting yourself exactly as you are.
You are good enough exactly as you are now. That does not
mean that there is no room for improvement, just that you
are perfectly acceptable in whatever state or condition you
are right now. And while you are at it, give your horse a
break and accept him too, just as he is now.
2. Mental rehearsal
Athletes everywhere use this technique to prepare themselves
form competitions. Imagining and fine tuning every step of
their performance results in a dramatically enhanced outcome.
3. Installing anchors
An anchor is a stimulus that generates a specific state of
mind. For example, touching a thumb to an index finger while
holding the reins could be an anchor that will make you feel
more confident in the saddle.
Keeping a journal or training can be a powerful confidence
booster. When you feel as if your training is going nowhere,
you can look back at past achievements to remind yourself
that one often feel discouraged just before one's greatest
The power of suggestion to the sub-conscious mind can not
be neglected. I believe it is an essential supplement to the
thinking rider's mental toolkit.
6. Practice Gratitude
Be grateful for everything you have achieved so far, no matter
how small and insignificant a goal it was. Get a gratitude
7. Goal setting
Your self-esteem, awareness, ability to communicate with horses
and people, energy and happiness can all be amplified by your
use of goal setting. This type of confidence-building takes
time, although the sense of achievement when you reach that
elusive star, is an instantaneous confidence booster. So aim
for the moon, if you miss it you will still land amongst the
In reframing you choose what an event will mean to you and
how you are going to respond to it emotionally. After a dressage
test you can focus intentionally on what went well, instead
of every little thing that went wrong. Usually we tend to
maximise our blunders, even if they are by far in the minority.
Often we are blind and deaf to our own successes.
9. Get rid of limiting beliefs
Most of us have very rigid ideas of who we are, what we can
or can't do, what we do or don't believe about horses and
riding, about instructors and farriers and vets. Very few
of us are willing to adjust our beliefs even in the face of
overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Instead of changing
our beliefs, we get even more entrenched in our comfort zone,
and decide instead to find some one or something else to blame:
our horse, for example. Or the weather, another rider, the
course planner, the trainer, our instructor etc. etc.
10. Discover your learning style and stage
Your mental fitness determines how efficiently you learn;
how easily you remember new information and master new skills.
How effectively you can use your brain to achieve the goals
you aim for is subject to your level of mental fitness.
Start your mental fitness program today. You get mentally
fit in exactly the same way as you get fit physically. By
exercising your mental muscles. Daily, preferably. Otherwise
as often as you can find time. The fitter you are mentally,
the more spectacular the increase in your confidence.
Dr Margarethe de Clermont is the author of the e-books
"Ride with Supreme Self-Confidence" and "Tame Your Fear" and
edits the Equestrian Magazine I want a Horse about how equestrians
can earn a second income on the Internet. Find out more at
Life Coaching to receive your FREE e-courses and e-zine.
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