Boosting your horse riding confidence starts with rediscovering your mojo.
First things first, let’s define what I mean by “mojo.” For the purposes of this article, think of the term as the comfortable, happy, relaxed, content, feeling or state of mind that you intend to be in when you ride your horse.
If you’re reading this, however, you likely aren’t feeling it. In fact, maybe can’t recall the last time you did. Fear not! I’m going to help you discover what’s missing and share concrete steps you can take to rediscover and/or improve your lost confidence.
Improving your confidence in the saddle starts with the following:
- Starting with your mindset
- Increasing your safety in the saddle
- Getting your horse on a good diet
- Reassessing your horse’s lifestyle
- Checking your tack and equipment
- Finding the right coach
We’ll dig into each tactic, but it’s also important to realize there’s no single remedy for horse riding nerves. Everyone is different, and everyone brings unique experiences to the saddle.
The good news? There are things you can do to shift your mindset, calm your fears, and enjoy your horse riding time.
Start with your mindset
In a perfect world, you’d tack up, jump on, and ride off into the sunset with zero worries about the weather, what other people are thinking or saying about you, whether you’re riding out alone, if your horse had too much spring grass and is feeling a little frisky… and the list goes on.
Pretty soon, the worry and dread that precipitates your rides becomes your ‘new normal.’ You might make excuses, but the truth is that you simply don’t feel like riding your horse.
As we get older, our responsibilities increase — and so does awareness of our own mortality.
You find yourself worrying more (sometimes subconsciously) about what might happen if things go wrong, you fall off, and you wind up getting hurt.
Who will look after the kids? How will you pay the medical bills? Will you have to sell your horse? You get the idea.
The emotions we focus on expand
Subconsciously, many of us nurture those negative feelings to the point where they prevent us from doing the things we want to be doing (like hanging out at the barn and riding your horse).
It’s not easy to overcome negative thoughts, but you can start to practice positive thinking and nurture productive thoughts by giving them more of your attention.
So, what can be done to change the way you think and free your mind from limiting beliefs, worries, and anxieties?
Harness your imagination for good
Start by practicing intentional visualizations of the way you want your riding to be. What does this look like when you see your horse in the paddock? How how does it feel when you lead him to the arena?
Your imagination holds the key to unlocking and releasing the fears that hold you back.
If that all sounds a bit silly to you, you’re not alone in that either. Nervous riders become so accustomed to negativity that it ironically feels more comfortable to remain in that headspace.
Progress comes in small steps, so start with a simple imagination exercise:
- Imagine your perfect scenario of riding horses.
- Feel it as fully as you can.
- Imagine your surroundings in detail.
- Think about what you can see, smell, and taste.
- Create a feeling that you want to return to.
- Practice this daily.
When negative thoughts interrupt you, acknowledge them, take what you need to learn from them, then release those thoughts that no longer serve you.
For example, a thought may cross your mind about whether your horse could fall into a hole while you’re cantering across the field.
Thank your mind for trying to keep you safe, consider whether any action should be taken, then release that thought to return to your visualization.
Shifting to a more positive state of mind requires dedication, hard work, and determination. But, as with riding, practice makes progress!
Want to learn more? Try The Feel Good Factor, a free 7-day program from The Confident Rider Project.
5 Ways to boost your confidence
Focus on personal safety
Feeling unsafe is one of the biggest sources of rider anxiety.
Making sure you’re using quality, innovative safety equipment can provide invaluable peace of mind.
Always ride in a certified riding helmet, use close-fitting apparel that won’t get caught in your tack, wear proper riding footwear, and consider investing in a body protector and/or a high-tech safety air vest.
Up your safety score with our articles about Horseback Riding Safety Equipment That’s Worth Every Penny and our Equestrian Hit Air Vest Review.
Get your horse on a good diet
Dietary imbalances can cause unwanted behaviors in horses, so making sure that your horse has the correct diet is vital.
So many times during my career as a groom, I encountered people guessing about their horses nutritional needs and ending up with way too much energy and, as a result, behavioural issues.
Giving a correct ration and type of feed for your horse’s unique work load and temperament can make a big difference in your riding experience. Never be afraid to ask your trainer or veterinarian for advice.
Learn more in our articles about Food or Foe: What Do Horses Eat (And Why) and our Horse Hay FAQs.
Assess your horse’s lifestyle
Making sure that your horse has plenty of turnout or field time (ideally 24/7), suitable herd dynamics, and a place where he feels comfortable enough to rest and eat well is key.
Horses are a lot calmer when their stress levels are managed well, and living at a quality facility with proper turnout is great for reducing stress levels and creating calm and happy horses.
Many behavioural issues can stem from lack of quality rest. Find out more in How Horses Sleep: A-Zzzz Guide to Equine Rest.
Check your tack and equipment
Maintaining your tack and equipment (and ensuring it fits you and your horse well) helps you both stay more comfortable.
If your horse gets a sore back or mouth every time you ride (or you can barely walk once you dismount), you’ll both dread your next session.
Wondering what you need and what you don’t? Check out our Head-to-Tail Buyer’s Guide for Beginners.
Find the right coach
With so many people offering advice (online and off), it can be hard to know who to trust. Finding someone local, like a good trainer, barn owner, or online resource, can give you a place to go with questions and anxieties before they spiral out of control.
Be sure to choose an expert who has calm, happy, content, and well-trained horses!
Nerves getting the best of you? Check out Horse Rookie’s list of 32 Things You Can Do Today to Calm Your Riding Nerves Forever.
You are NOT alone
The Confident Rider Project is all about finding the perfect solution for you. It exists to prove you are not alone and there are always plenty of things you can do to change your circumstances, challenges, and fears around horseback riding.
At the end of the day, we’re all connected by our love of horses and belief that they can enhance our lives and fill us with pride and enthusiasm. It’s time to overcome your fears and experience a true breakthrough with your riding.
About Hannah Freeman
I help horse lovers around the world escape from the rat race, release their anxieties and frustrations, and achieve a purposeful life around family, career, and love of horses. The result? Equestrians who are glowing with confidence, fulfilled, and optimistic about the future.
Learn more at theconfidentriderproject.com.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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- How Safety Stirrups Work (Pros/Cons, Uses, Features, Brands)
- 7 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults
- 3 Reasons horseback riding is (really) fun