Almost every rider has a point during their career when their confidence is shaken. Once your confidence is lost, it can be hard to get it back. These five exercises can help you to build your confidence as a rider so you can enjoy riding again.
Perfect Your Position
A strong position will make you feel more secure in the saddle, which can translate to improved confidence. There are countless ways to work on your position in the saddle. Consider riding without stirrups, riding in two point, posting the canter, and more to develop your strength and position in the saddle.
Work on the Lunge Line
Riding your horse while on the lunge line is a great way to build confidence, because you can do exercises that you can’t do when you’re responsible for steering and controlling your horse yourself. Have your instructor guide your horse on the lunge, and work on exercises to develop your balance and trust in your horse. Ride with your hands on your hips or your shoulders, twist your body from side to side, ride without stirrups, and more. Do these exercises at all gaits to develop your seat and to improve your confidence.
Ride With Your Eyes Closed
The simple act of riding with your eyes closed can enhance your awareness of your horse’s movement, and of your overall balance in the saddle. It’s advisable to perform this exercise only when you’re alone in an empty ring, or when you’re on a lunge line. Start by closing your eyes for just a few strides at the walk, then gradually progress until you can trot and even canter with your eyes closed. Experiment with holding your hands out for balance (again, while you’re on the lunge line, please!) and focus on how your body moves and balances with the horse.
Work With Ground Poles
If you find that you need more confidence over fences, then eliminating the fences entirely is a good first step to rebuilding your confidence from the ground up. Rather than working your horse over fences, work over ground poles. Start at the trot, and as you approach the pole, count your strides out loud. Try to determine just when your horse is going to reach the pole as you count, seeing your distance.
Next, progress to cantering the poles. Do the same as you did at the trot, counting your strides out loud. The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to sense when your horse reaches the pole. As you get better at seeing your distance, you’ll be able to approach fences more confidently.
Ride Different Horses
Presumably you’ve been doing the above four exercises on your own horse. Now is the time to ride another horse, and try the same exercises. Learning to quickly adapt to a different horse’s style is an excellent confidence builder, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and reminding you of your talent as a rider.
Riding other horses has another benefit, though. If you are dealing with confidence issues in riding your own horse, working with a steadier, calmer horse can be a great way to get some confidence back. Working with a dependable school horse gives you a chance to focus on and strengthen your riding, and you can then return to riding your own horse with your improved confidence.
Building your confidence as a rider is a long, slow process. It’s advisable to work with a trainer who can help to gently push you out of your comfort zone while keeping you safe.