Riding Confidence - Visualisation Techniques and Confident Journal

Riding confidence 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.  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 until you’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.  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 with the 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 love to hear your stories –Bianca,

Visualisation Technique

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, let the 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 the picture. 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.

Circle of Confidence

Goal Setting for Horse Archers

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