FAQ Riding

What are some horse riding confidence exercises?

horse riding confidence
Written by Horse Rookie

Confidence doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes, you have to work for it.

We could all use a little more confidence on horseback. It’s an amazing sport, in part because there’s always room for improvement.

As we like to say here at Horse Rookie, Knowledge is Horsepower™. The more you know and the better your skills, the safer and more confident you’ll be when you ride.

So, if you’re high on equestrian dreams, but somewhat low on confidence, fear not. There are plenty of fun exercises that can help you build confidence in the saddle. 

Thanks to Sarah Harris for our feature photo!

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Try Ground Poles

One of the best ways to increase your balance and learn to use the rhythm of your horse’s gaits is with ground poles. Ground poles are extremely popular as training aides for that reason.

Ground poles are long wooden or plastic poles that lie on the ground and can be walked, trotted, and cantered over for practice.

Once you get them set up (ask your trainer to help if you’re new to ground poles), start by slowly asking your horse to walk over them. Concentrate on keeping a consistent rhythm, then transition to trot and canter when you’re ready.

horse trot poles

Source: Emily Harris

Here’s a video that shows some fun and basic pole exercises:


Whether you’re trotting ground poles or cantering cross country fences, an air vest can help if you’re scared to ride your horse.

Stretching Out

It might feel a little silly at first, but learning to stretch and move on horseback is an amazing way to get your muscles working independently and help you learn to balance.

If you’re still pretty new to riding, stretches can be done while your horse is on a lunge line (where they are being controlled by someone else on the end of a long rope).

The great thing about these exercises is that they’re good for any level of riding skill. (That’s right — even your more advanced friends will have fun.)

Here’s a good video showing a typical lunge line stretching lesson. 

Plus, visit our Riding Mindset FAQs for more ideas:

Let Your Inner Kid Out

Trying out fun riding games like carrying an egg in a spoon does more than give riders a good laugh. Games use a number of different riding skills to help you develop your coordination and focus.

They also keep you from getting too serious and worried in the saddle. Riding should be fun, after all!

Egg and spoon competitions are a favorite (see video below), but that’s only the beginning.


There are a lot of games you may have played as a kid that can be skill-builders on a horse. Musical Chairs (i.e. use cones to mark off where your horse would stop), “Red Light – Green Light,” and even playing “Tag” using pool noodles can be fun for any age group.

Just be sure the group agrees on some basic rules beforehand (e.g. no faster than a trot).

Want more ideas for building your confidence? Check out 32 things you can do today to calm your riding nerves forever

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About the author

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!