Becoming a more confident rider doesn’t happen overnight. Confidence in the saddle and around your horse on the ground takes time. For expert advice and tips, our Equine Marketing Team spoke to Amanda Kirkland-Page, Founder of The Confident Horse Rider. Amanda is an International Confidence Coach working with horse riders of all levels, so who better to chat with about horses and confidence!
“I often ask nervous riders; how many times have you ridden in your life? Riders will always reply ‘quite a bit’, to which I ask, ‘so which ones are you focusing on?!’ Explains Amanda.
Amanda says that if you keep thinking, talking or even researching everything about those negative experiences, you will be reinforcing the negatives;
“Guess what’s happening in your subconscious? You’re laying down layers of neural-pathways which equates to trauma and fear. A lot of riders do this, and they are getting themselves more and more anxious.”
Amanda uses a mix of skill set to work with riders, from hypnotherapy, NLP, coaching and her experience as an instructor and rider which Amanda says helps evaluate a rider;
“Whether it’s a long term strategy or an immediate quick fix to help get them back in the saddle, I draw on so many areas of experience relevant to each client. For example, the instructor in me might see something as simple as the saddle not making them feel very secure, or a particular set-up in the warm-up at a show.”
Amanda is keen to explain that rider confidence isn’t just labelled to more novice or less experienced riders. Professional, even Olympic riders can suffer confidence issues;
“For professional riders, there are similar threads, but professional riders also have a whole different level of pressure on them; it might be to win a championship or medal or to perform well for their owners to keep the rides. These elements can manifest as pressure and anxiety in the rider and result in underperformance and then a loss of confidence.”
“Fundamentally, most rider’s fears and worries stem from a lack of belief in their ability to cope and be in control. That’s where coaching helps, to explore the issues and look at actionable steps to overcome rider confidence issues.”
Amanda says that there is a familiar pattern to riders that lack confidence;
“When riders have a hiccup in their training or riding, they want to carry on, but they quickly realise that it’s not as simple as that because the mind doesn’t change tact that quickly. They will then start to compare themselves to their peers or past performance, and then you get the confusion of ‘I don’t understand why is this happening and why can’t I get over this?’ This is very common.”
Losing your confidence in the saddle also doesn’t have to be dramatic, as Amanda explains:
“It could be as simple as your horse spooking out on a hack. Nothing terrible happened, but it made you nervous. Next time you go out you are feeling more anxious; ‘what if my horse had spooked badly and I had fallen off and hurt myself’. Again, you start laying down these negative thought patterns and become more and more nervous, anxious and worried about hacking out.”
So, how does Amanda help build riders’ confidence;
“A lot depends on why the rider has lost their confidence. It might be just one incident or a build-up over time. It can also relate to the loss of a horse, instructor or even work or personal life anxiety or worries impacting on your riding. When I come to help the rider, I look at the rider and what their needs would be, dependent on their problem and personality. Some riders also worry about how they appear to others, and they feel inadequate and compare themselves. It can be a very complex web to untangle for some riders, so each rider needs a different approach.”
Amanda’s Top Tips For Regaining Your Riding Confidence
- Get professional help. If you’re struggling, don’t struggle alone. Get some qualified and expert advice to return you to being a more confident rider.
- Small steps at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take bite-sized chunks and build up your confidence slowly. Don’t put yourself in situations that scare you. Build on the positives.
- Have a good support network around you to help; family, friends at the yard, a sympathetic instructor you trust.
- Work regularly with your instructor. Riding under supervision can help build your confidence.
- Try some positive mental and visualisation exercises. I have some great activities on my website you can try.
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