How to Gain More Confidence Around Horses
Horses did not come naturally to me. Love for horses did, but being around them, wasn't always an easy ride. My brother was given a horse and that was my introduction to horses. That horse kicked me, bit me, bucked me off, and stepped on my toe. That horse taught me all about bad habits that horses can have. As much as the lessons hurt, I learned a lot.
After an injury I would swear off horses. Who needed them anyway? A couple weeks later I would get enough confidence to try again. This cycle lasted for a couple of years until I bought my first horse who was a great babysitter and confidence builder.
I am either determined, or a little slow--I never let these experiences stop me from being around horses. I started training the horse I have now, almost five years ago. Things started out good, but my horse is very athletic and somehow I trained her to be more advanced than I was. A few years ago I couldn't seem to stay in the saddle. The first few times I fell off I just got back on, but each time it was harder, my confidence was draining. Then one beautiful afternoon I decided to head outside for an early spring ride. I hit the ground. Hard. I wouldn't ride for about four or five months because of pain and a lack of confidence. I got through this and got my confidence back. If you've lost your confidence around horses, you can get it back to.
The last time I hit the ground, I knew things had to change. I realized that I had an image of the level I was at riding, and there was where I really was (on the ground). I had a choice. I could sell my horse and find one that was half dead and stay where I was, or I could take lessons and strengthen my riding skills.
I believe in moving forward, so I chose strengthening my riding skills. I signed up for riding lessons with an instructor I trusted.
Beginning the lessons, I also went back to a beginner's mind. Taking the lessons with the attitude that I already know enough would've took money from my wallet, with no results. I chose to be open and willing to learn.
It’s helpful to start lessons on an already trained horse. I rode two of the instructor's horses for the first few lessons and then started taking them on my own horse. I was able to focus on my riding on the instructor's horses and start gaining my confidence back in the saddle. I wasn't one hundred percent confident when I climbed back on my horse, but it definitely helped.
When you go to the barn, be in the barn. Don't let your mind wander about your horrible awful day at work, or what's for dinner later. Be aware of your horse. When you're riding if you're not focused, how can you expect your horse to stay focused?
Have a Plan
When you head out to ride, have a plan of what you're going to work on. Keep your horse focused on the exercises. By keeping the horses mind and body working the horse shouldn't have time to be able to focus on objects outside of the arena.
This is something I think about every time I saddle up. The reasons I kept falling off mainly had to do with me not paying attention and my horse not paying attention. Something would catch my horse's attention and she would start to spook. I would overreact, and she would overreact and I'd end up on the ground.
Keep Riding, but Take it Slow
The confidence and trust that you need to rebuild with your horse can take time. In order to work on this you need to keep riding. Take it as slow as you need, but remember at some point you will need to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Evaluate why you are feeling uncomfortable. Are you feeling that your horse isn't paying attention at a lope? Work on gaining respect on the ground, and at a walk and a trot. Once you feel confident with those, push yourself and lope.
Don't worry about every one's time lines. We are all different and all horses are different. If you are building your confidence and training a horse it will take longer then someone who is full of confidence. Don't let that stop you from riding, or from pushing yourself to fast.
Make a Success Journal
Keep a journal of all the success in your life. This can be around horses or away from horses, keep a journal of everything. When you're writing this all down you'll realize just how cool you are. You'll realize that if you can do all this successful stuff you can also get over your fear with horses.
Horses are big animals. When incidents happen with horses, it's easy to lose your confidence. By taking riding lessons from a reputable instructor, being present, being prepared, taking your time, and celebrating your previous success you can get your confidence back.
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