Improving Rider Confidence

Improving Rider Confidence

Lack of confidence is very common amongst horse riders. The obvious cause is following a fall or near miss but there doesn’t have to be a big single event, a rider can lack or lose confidence just through their everyday exposure to horses. The bad news is that you can’t buy confidence and no one can give it to you but the good news is that with the right help and support and with a willingness to work at it, you can improve. I will re-emphasise the right help because however well meaning they are, the ‘get on with it’ approach of some people just won’t work. And here’s why-
Your sub conscious part of the brain is what keeps you safe, it is the part that will kick in and tell you that you’re in danger when triggered by a certain stimulus. The trigger can be a sight, sound, feeling, even a smell- it is very personal to the individual. The conscious part of your brain is the part that is telling you that everything is ok, the bit that hears when someone tells you to get on with it. However the sub conscious brain will always have the ability to over-ride the conscious brain if triggered, hence ‘getting on with it’ doesn’t produce a sustainable solution to dealing with nerves. And neither does avoiding the issue!

So what’s the solution? You need to train your brain! Understanding how the brain works and taking progressive steps to increase positivity is a huge help. You need to identify your comfort zone, your stretch zone and your over-stretch zone and work appropriately with them. Trying to reduce or remove conflicts helps by increasing motivation and commitment, as the constant worry about whether to do something or not is very draining and in itself detrimental to confidence. A common problem is to focus on the disparities between what you think you should be doing and what you can actually do, even more so when others add their opinion about what you should be doing. This cycle of comparison, conflict and negative thinking needs to be broken and the brain needs to be trained to stop the ‘what ifing’ that makes you convinced you’re going to fail or hurt yourself even before you’ve put the headcollar on.

Improving confidence is so much easier when you have the right person or people to help you. The wrong person can easily cause further damage to fragile confidence but the right support can give you the knowledge, understanding and tools to progress and achieve success. If you keep working at it you will quickly see glimmers of light and the amazing moment when you suddenly realise that you’re enjoying yourself is worth every minute of effort. Of course your horse may need training too, as many have anxieties of their own but even though it feels impossible at times, nervousness or lack of confidence can be changed in both of you.

If you would like to know more then look me up via my website at We have a great team working in Devon, available to help you throughout 2017.

Happy Riding.
Natalie x

Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

Natalie has owned horses for over 30 years and owned East Devon Riding Academy near Sidmouth. She has previously lectured in Equine Science to degree level and produced research for preparing Great Britains' equestrian teams for the Olympics. Natalie provides consultations in all aspects of Equine Science, and has fitted saddles for competitors at Badminton International Horse Trials.