Sometimes it feels like the older you get, the more you're aware of how easily you can break. But don't worry, there are all sorts of strategies you can try in order to beat those riding nerves
Many riders report that bursting into song helps to relax both them and their horse, and it’s also recommended by Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner Jo Cooper on her website www.equestrianconfidence.com. Singing will also stop you from holding your breath, which your horse will pick up on and which could make him anxious. So break out the Justin Bieber, your horse (if not any passers-by) will appreciate it…
2. Gradually stretch your comfort zone
Confidence and performance coach Jenni Winters (www.flyingchangescoaching.co.uk) suggests that you take small steps towards your goal, instead of just plunging straight in and possibly over-facing yourself. If, for example, your goal is a one day event, then think of what the next small step towards this might be — it can be as small as just getting out and about on your horse. Gradually stretch your comfort zone — and eventually it will emcompass the thing you’d like to do. Sometimes it can help to start with your end goal in mind and work backwards towards the thing you can do today.
They don’t work for everybody, but some people report success with MP3s designed to put the listener into a trance-like state and reprogramme their subconscious. From Paul McKenna to Glenn Harrold, there are loads of self-hypnosis MP3s on the market which offer to do everything from building confidence to beating phobias, or you could try one of those targeted specifically at riders, such as those by hypnotherapist Sharon Shinwell, co-author of the book Ride With Confidence – visit www.confident-rider.co.uk
4. Positive visualisation
If you have visions of yourself flying through the air, or being bucked into a hedge, before you’ve even got on the horse, you need to get rid of that negative image and replace it with something more positive. Jenni Winters suggests you take time to visualise your ride going well — think about what you’d like to achieve and imagine doing it. Banish any negative thoughts. The more you think of something, the more you are actually practising it (your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imaginary). So practice the good stuff in your head.
5. Focus on the present
Again, forget about the “what ifs”. They haven’t happened — they probably won’t happen. Hypnotherapist and horse trainer Amanda Kirkland-Page (www.confidenthorserider.co.uk) recommends grounding yourself by rubbing the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth — this action will help keep you focused on the here and now.
It’s easy to forget to breathe when you’re stressing out. Amanda Kirkland-Page suggests the following: take four deep breaths, imagining all the muscles in your body relaxing, becoming softer. As you breathe out, say the word “CALM”. The more you do this, the more you’ll associate feelings of calm with deep breathing.