With competition season in full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot about rider confidence recently, as it’s become a popular topic for discussion. I recently read Charlotte Du Jardin’s book and she speaks about how working with a sports psychologist really helped her combat negative thoughts and feelings. Sports psychology is a growing industry with more and more top riders turning to it for help.
The Equestrian world is embracing research and modern ways of horse management. Horses are living longer and able to compete way into their teens due to ever-improving knowledge and care.
Riders now view themselves as athletes and many consult with nutritionists and personal trainers to enable them to perform at their best.
So it was only natural that the sport would start to recognise the importance of psychological well being as well as physical health. As equestrians, whether happy hackers or professionals, we will all come across challenging times when owning horses. These can be from falls, competition nerves, to dealing with soundness problems and losing our beloved friends.
So how do we overcome these challenges and continue to train, learn, ride and keep caring for these amazing animals? As let’s face it, owning a horse is a tremendous commitment, financially, on your time and your emotions.
Some people find their confidence in horses. I myself have certainly gained so much from my current horse. I bought him 10 years ago as a confidence giver and he’s surpassed all expectations and given me more than I’d ever imagined. However, I also turned to a hypnotherapist for help when I realised that although I was no longer a “nervous rider” I still lacked confidence in my ability and knowledge. I found hypnotherapy was very helpful for me, and exploring why I had such uncertainty about my abilities and what experiences I’d had that had led to these beliefs was quite enlightening.
Some people never appear to suffer from confidence issues, maybe they don’t, or maybe they just hide it very well?
Others get their reassurance from trainers, friends, fellow liveries. However, yard politics and criticism of fellow riders is a topic I will save for another day!
I think it’s positive that people are finding ways to improve themselves, as surely this can only benefit our horses?
The Equestrian world is slowly catching up with the fashion industry. With the introduction of technical fabrics keeping us cool in summer and warm in winter without the bulk of ten layers! Both rider and horse wear is paying attention to details. Sparkling threads have appeared with crystals, and there are so many colours and shades to dress you and your horse. Long gone are the days of black, navy and beige being the only choices!
Does looking your best contribute to confidence? In my case it really does. If I arrive at a lesson with a clean horse, a nice outfit that compliments my horse’s, I feel good. Obviously, it’s not going to necessarily make me ride better or a sparkly saddle pad make my horse work any better. However, if I’m comfortable in clothing that not only looks good but fits correctly, and keeps me warm or cool, then that can’t be a bad thing surely? The same goes for my horse, he does really not care if he’s in the latest grey PS of Sweden set, but if he’s got a soft and breathable saddle pad, that doesn’t rub or pinch, then he will be able to get on with the job at hand. If he’s in croc style boots that protect his legs without being too tight or overheating them, what’s the harm?
It’s now possible to look good at the yard, rather than plain with clothes that lack shape and detail. Will it turn you into a Grand Prix rider? No, it won’t. But will it increase your confidence? Quite possibly! Will it do you any harm? Definitely not!
So whatever your way of keeping your confidence up, keep going, and there’s no harm in looking fabulous while you do it!