Whether you have just experienced a bad fall, had a disappointing show season or are just having a mental block, losing confidence in your riding ability is a serious problem that many people face. All riders experience some level of anxiety or fear while riding – it’s a perfectly normal response to being on top of a large animal with a mind of its own. Riding is supposed to be a source of happiness in your life, and it can be very frustrating when that is no longer the case. No matter what level you are riding at, here are some tips that can help you get back into the saddle with confidence:
1. Identify your reaction to anxiety and the cause
It is important to know what your personal reactions to your nerves are. Some common ones include an upset stomach, sweating or shaking. You might even notice that your behaviors are affected. You may be making excuses to avoid the barn, or spend time with your horse, but not ride. Once you have identified your reactions, you can start to understand them. The next time you are on the way to the barn but start getting nauseous, you can acknowledge that you’re feeling nervous and use tools to move past those anxieties.
2. Positive visualization
The night before you go riding, visualize what you want your lesson to be like. Picture it in a positive way, whether it be you clearing a 3-foot jump or getting the correct lead in the canter. This will also help you enter your lesson with a goal in mind.
3. Keep reachable goals
Set riding goals that are attainable and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This will help you have a more positive lesson and feel like you’ve accomplished something. For example, if it is the canter that you are worried about, say to yourself, “Today, I will canter at least two circles in each direction.” This is something you can achieve. If you set a goal that is too complex, such as, “Today, I will master the flying-lead change,” you will leave your lesson frustrated. It is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone in a good way, one that leaves you feeling accomplished, but not so far that you get sent back to square one.
4. Build your support team
Riding is not a solo sport. Your horse and your trainer are the main partners you have along the journey to reach your equestrian goals. Work with a horse that is appropriate for your skill level and work on building trust between the two of you. Spend plenty of quality, out of the saddle time with it. This could include grooming your horse, watching it interact with others and doing ground work with it. Knowing what you can expect out of your horse can help ease anxiety when in the saddle.
Work with a trainer that knows both you and your equine partner. It is important to have an open dialogue with your coach about your anxiety, especially if it is affecting your riding. They can alter lesson plans to address your individual needs and help you work through the fear. With a little bit of time and effort, you will be riding stress-free. Horses can often pick up on your nerves and that feeling can carry over to your horse, affecting your ride.
If you notice that your horse is acting more nervous and irritable, something that certainly will not help an anxious rider, they might be experiencing a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is a vitamin that plays an important role in calming horses. If you believe your horse may be deficient, check with your local veterinarian and try a supplement. Finish Line’s Thia-Cal and Quia-Cal supplements will help promote healthy nerves in your horse.
Thia-Cal™ promotes healthy nerves in your horse in a daily feed supplement. This is a potent Thiamine and Magnesium supplement balanced with Calcium.
Quia-Cal® is a fast acting one-shot oral paste that promotes healthy nerves in your horse. Use as an aid in the prevention of minor nervousness during times of stress.