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can be such a difficult thing to measure -it can be very difficult to gain and can be lost in an instant. Sometimes taking a step backwards can propel you forward quicker than you can imagine. Loss of riding confidence can occur in a multitude of ways. Maybe we spent our teenage years galloping, jumping & doing all things crazy on horseback. Then adult life got in the way and we drifted from horses, only to come back to decades later. We find that our body remembers, but everything is harder and we are more aware of what could go wrong. Maybe we have ridden all our lives, but have had a serious fall. Whilst our bodies healed, all we can think about is that fall and the anxiety is overwhelming. Some riders can change horses and regain their confidence, while others it doesn’t matter who they are riding -the anxiety doesn’t go away. For many people this anxiety then affects even the quietest of horses, causing a vicious circle of repeated confidence loss. No matter what the situation, please be gentle with yourself. You may think that your anxiety is irrational or silly BUT it is very real to you. I am regularly drawn to this quote by Sharon Pearson:
No matter what the situation, please be gentle with yourself. You may think that your anxiety is irrational or silly BUT it is very real to you. I am regularly drawn to this quote by Sharon Pearson:So, here I am encouraging and challenging you to take action even though you are fearful. This is where it is useful to take a step back and reflect on what is making you anxious or afraid. Don’t wait untilyou’ve conquered your fears to do something. Through doing the thing that you are anxious about, you can move forward through it towards confidence. I’m not suggesting that you jump up on that horse that you’re scared of with no regard to your safety. That would be foolish. There is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technique that can be very beneficial. Refer to the boxed section.I find what is most beneficial to my clients is to spend some time with my schoolmaster and working one on one with me. That way if it takes you 15 minutes to work up the courage to mount, then that is just fine. No one needs to see that but you and I. The next thing I recommend is doing something that you would least expect -doing a riding activity that takes the focus off of the horse. Equestrian vaulting and horse archery are great for this! Both of these activities require you to remove your reliance on reins and focus on something other than the horse, whether it be either gymnastic moves or shooting with a bow and arrow. I actually teach both vaulting and horse archery, but my school master has now retired from vaulting. Before you know it, you’re breathing (singing your favourite slow song), relaxing and in the case of horse archery -focusing on hitting the target.This means that your focus is not so much on the horse. Before long most people are smiling and realising that they are shooting & riding unaided and not as anxious as before. All in small steps, but wins nonetheless. This is where it is critical to nurture this new, growing confidence. It is important to be pushed and challenged but only to a certain point -gradually and with care. I find that laughing & singing withthe rider (even while I’m on horseback) helps to release their tension build up. It’s important to ride with someone you trust on a horse that will look after you. Every time you ride, you should gain a step towards your confident riding goal -no matter how small this step is.
Importantly, there are two main things to remember:1. Confidence is taking action despite your fear.2. Be kind and gentle with yourself -change takes time and requires great courage.I’d loveto hear your stories –Bianca, www.empowerment4riders.com
1. Think about a time when you felt really confident. This could either be riding or on the ground. Just really visualise and connect with the emotion relating to this confident time. Make this mental picture very bright, colourful and strong. Once you have connected with this, let the picture go and come back to a blank screen.
2. Now think about a time when you are riding and are feeling anxious or scared. See and feel this anxiety. Once you have this picture in your mind, start to bleach out the colours in the picture and make the edges of the picture not as crisp. Once you have this in your mind, letthe picture come back to a blank screen.
3. Revisit Step 1.
4.Revisit Step 2.
5.Keep repeating step 1 & 2 until the picture and emotion are very easy to connect with.
6.Now go back to step 2 and insert this bright, confident, colourful version of yourself into thepicture. Make the positive, confident you expand until it overwhelms the bleached out picture of you feeling anxious. Really feel that you are confident in this situation. Once you have this in your mind, let the picture come back to a blank screen.
7. Repeat Step 6 until you can instantly connect with the confident you in the anxious riding situation.
8.Before getting on your horse, use this visualisation technique. It is important that you connect with the positive, confident version of yourself.
Bianca’s Bang on Target
Stawiarski took up horse archery in 2013, before representing Australia at the Texas Championship and Chelee Warriors Mounted Archery International Championship in the United States the following two years.
She then become a horse archery instructor in 2015, and launched her business ‘Empowerment 4 Riders’ soon after.
Stawiarski had spent many years in the equestrain community and recognized one upsetting trend that she felt compelled to change.
“Over the years I have watched many of my equestrian friends not be able to fully enjoy horse-riding due to anxiety from either a scare, or a significant injury following a fall” Stawiarski said.
“Since taking up horse archery I began to become even more aware of the growing number of riders who are significantly impacted by lack of rider confidence.
“(Horse archery) is something that’s really strong… (It is) so empowering.”
Stawiarski , who is also a women;s transformational coach, said people are often taken aback by her methods, but soon warm to them.
“Most of the time people are too busy, worrying about how to hold the arrow and where to put their fingers that they don’t often realise they’re on a horse” she said.
“Riders who were, at times, overwhemingly paralysed by fear were able to pick up a bow and ride.
“It was small steps at first, but the change was dramatic”
Stawiarski has been instructing Lewiston local Robyn Irving for the past two years. Irving a competent rider when she was younger, sought instruction after a knee replacement three years ago and has gone from what Stawiarski described as a “nervous rider” to gaining confidence.
“I loved archery at school, so I though I wanted to do something different, I wanted to do horse archery.” Irving said.
“At first I was scared as hell, I was terrified, but Bianca’s helped me, she’s showed me it’s just your mind telling you you can’t do it.”
The 52-year old said you are never too old to start something, explaining she enjoys the social side of the sport. too.
Stawiarski also takes riders on trial rides, or beach rides, to assist their skills outside of the arena.
More information on Empowerment 4 Riders can be found by searching online.
– Steph Konatar.
Horse archery right on target
By KEIRA JENKINS
Riding a horse can be daunting, especially if you have to drop the reins and use a bow and arrow, but this is exactly what Adelaide woman Blanca Stawiarski does.
She said shooting from horseback can improve the confidence of riders who’ve had a bad fall, and even new riders.
So the mother of two started her own business. Empowerment4Riders, which uses a variety of activities including horse archery to build confidence in riders.
Ms Stawiarski said this tied in well her work as a women’s transformational coach, where she helps women who feel “overwhelmed, under appreciated or vulnerable to feel strong and important”.
“There was defintely a need for it in South Australia,” she told the Koori Mail.
“I started doing it as volunteer work because I got a kick out of seeing people grow. At first people are very scared to let go of the reins.
“Most of the women I work with transform. You can see their confidence build and they become Amazons.
“They tap into their inner fire that they might not have known existed or not realised was there. That’s a powerful thing to do.”
Although Ms Stawiarski has her own suite of achievements in the horse archery field, including being the first Aboriginal competitor to represent Australia in the United States in 2014, she said the idea of letting go to the reins was daunting at first.
“I though I’d give it a go.” she said.
“It looked interesting and I thought it on”, But it was scary at first to trust myself and trust my horse enough to let go of the reins.
“But It’s really weird when you do let go and stop fussing with the reins; the horse just loves it. My horse became a war horse. He though it was pretty next time.”
Both of Ms Stawiarski’s teenage children are also keen horse archers. “My daughter can do anything she puts her mind to on horseback” she said.
“And my son is just learning to ride and shoot, but its amazing for them both to tap into their inner fire.
“The school also gets a few Indigenous boarders and I bring them out to ride. There kids sometimes haven’t ridden before and they love it.
“Kids think they’re invincible. Whereas with the work I’ve been doing I’m helping people get back into saddle.”
Ms Stawiarski said she hopes horse archery grows as a sport, and more people take it up to boost their confidence.
I’d like to see it grow and I’d like it to be a sport that peopleknow about” she said.
“The fanstastic thing about horse archery is that you can just jump on a horse in jeans. You don’t need $300 jodhpurs, or all the right gear like you do in dressage, so hopefully it can break down the socioeconomic barriers that you find in a lot of equestrian sports.
“As long as you give it a go you’re on the right track. There are so many possibilities with horse archery.
“The women that come to me feel so good and strong, they transform. It takes 15 minutes. It takes just 15 minutes with a bow and arrow for them to feel a change”