These are ideas for you to try. You may find that some of them help more than others — feel free to adapt them and use them to develop new ideas of your own.
This is just a beginning…..
First of all reassure yourself that almost every rider feels nervous at some time — you are not alone. Quite often nervous riders make themselves feel worse by believing that every other rider is full of confidence. This is NOT so!
Is your life very stressful? Is it possible that other stresses and traumas are affecting your riding? Is there anything you can do to ease any other stress?
Assess the problem realistically. Are you really competent to be doing what you are attempting to do? Is it safe (as far as you know) for you to do what you want to do? Do you have an instructor/trainer/experienced friend you can talk this over with?
When you are on your horse do you feel secure? If not, do you have an instructor/trainer who looks in detail at how you are riding, can assess what you are doing biomechanically and can help you to become more secure?
Are you scared of the 'idea' of a particular pace? (This often happens with canter.) It may help to book a session on a mechanical horse that can offer all paces so that you can feel the different paces and work on your position with an instructor without the fear of the horse doing anything unexpected.
Sometimes a person and a horse just don’t gel. Professional riders have to deal with this but if you ride for pleasure it may be worth asking yourself if you really have the right horse for you. It doesn’t help you or your horse to struggle on just because you think you should.
Can you be specific about the problem? Is your fear to do with something in the past or with anticipating the future – or both? Has something traumatic happened to you (or someone you know) in the past? Or are you imagining what you think might happen? Identify the problem and then try out all the techniques you know to deal with the specific issue. Sometimes just understanding what is going on will help you to deal with it.
What is the extent of the problem? Are you nervous about everything or just some things? For example, are you comfortable when you are around your horse? Are you nervous getting on? Of asking your horse to walk, trot, canter, jump? Are you afraid your horse will spook, buck or bolt? Make a list of all the things that you can deal with confidently and congratulate yourself! Build on this list.
Make sure that you are not exaggerating the problem. If you are nervous of cantering, for example, watch someone else cantering and notice how much movement there is in the horse's back. Does this match with how you imagine it feels? If you are nervous of jumping a X pole, for example, watch someone else and look at how high the horse actually 'jumps' (or steps!) over it. Adjust your internal image of how high the pole is.
Remember to breathe! Practise breathing deeply when you are thinking about riding as well as when you are actually on your horse. Letting your shoulders drop will help you to be able to breathe more deeply.
Have you a favourite song that makes you feel happy or makes you laugh? What happens if you sing it to yourself at the same time as thinking about riding? Do you feel more confident? Try singing to yourself (and even to your horse) when you are riding!
Do you have a picture in your mind that troubles you? If so, just notice what the image is like. Is it in colour? Is it still (like a photograph) or is it more like a video? Can you change the image in your head — for example by making it smaller, making it monochrome rather than in full colour? If it is like a video try the NLP technique of running it in reverse several times very quickly.
Picture one of your favourite riders on your horse dealing with the issues that you are nervous of. What is that rider doing? Watch them in your mind several times and see how that rider works with your horse. Then imagine that you are that rider and feel what it is like to ride in that way. Practise this in your mind and then on your horse.
In your mind picture yourself riding your horse. Can you see how your fear is affecting your riding? Change your picture so that you see yourself riding confidently. Step into the image and feel the position of your body and the movement of the horse and experience what it is like to be confident. Keep refining this until you are happy with the results — and remind yourself to do the same thing when you are on your horse.
© Jo Cooper 2002-2017. All rights reserved