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3 Tips for Staying Relaxed and Confident

When I younger, I struggled with a common problem that many riders face after taking a fall – losing my nerve. While I’ve gained a lot of my confidence back since then, being worried that my horse is going to spook or getting nervous again after a new fall is something that I’m always going to be working to overcome. Telling yourself to get over your nerves and just ride through it is easier said than done, so I’ve come up with a few techniques that help me stay relaxed and confident when I ride:

1. It’s okay to use a “security blanket” to help you feel safe and comfortable.
The first spring I owned Sasha, I fell off one day when she tried to make a break for it and join a group of horses in a nearby ring. When I first got back on after the fall, I was really nervous about cantering through that end of the ring, especially when there were horses in the other ring. To keep myself comfortable, I took baby steps towards using the entire ring again. At first I only used half of the ring, then I started expanding my circle until we were trotting around the whole ring, and then worked towards cantering through that corner. After a couple of weeks, we were cantering around the ring with no problems, even when there was a group of horses being ridden nearby.

If you feel more confident when you lunge your horse before you get on, or when you stick to riding in the indoor, or when you use just half the ring, do it. There’s no shame in doing what makes you feel comfortable, even if you think you should be able to do without your “security blanket.” As you gain more confidence, you can start moving out of your comfort zone until you don’t need your “security blanket” anymore.
Sasha flowers
2. Take a walk and let your horse get a look at the monsters in the ring before you begin.
If you’re nervous that your horse is going to spook at objects in the ring, let them walk around and check things out before you start riding. Some of the riders at my barn are preparing for equitation finals, so the jump course set up is complicated and includes hay bales, a lot of purple flowers, a scary green box, and a coop. The course changes frequently and Sasha tends to get nervous when jumps change places overnight, so I always take a few minutes to let her investigate everything before we get to work.
3. Even if it seems silly, small things like talking to your horse or listening to music can help you stay relaxed.
I know my horse feeds off of me when I’m nervous and tense, so I’ve had to come up with a couple of techniques to stay relaxed throughout our rides.

When I’m worried that Sasha’s going to spook at something (like Prince Charming the cat, who likes to hide in the indoor and pop out at the most inopportune moments), I talk to her about what a good, brave baby she is and how there’s nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes I feel a little silly riding around the ring talking to her, especially considering that she doesn’t actually spook all that much (we joke that I’m more scared of the cat than she is), but it keeps me from getting too tense, so I keep doing it. If I’m riding by myself, I also like to keep my phone in my pocket and play music. Listening to music seems to help keep me relaxed and if I sing along, it serves a dual purpose by keeping me breathing, too.

What techniques do you use to stay relaxed and confident during the spooky days of fall and winter?

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4 comments on “3 Tips for Staying Relaxed and Confident
  1. Elizabeth Smith says:

    Great ideas, but…. If I were to start singing, my horses really would spook! I don’t even like to listen to me.

  2. Jeffrey Lesitsky says:

    Great blog Lexi. A lot of good advise. Now I can put a face to your name. Great looking horse too.

  3. Terry says:

    Thanks for some great tips. I’ve discovered, breathing, sitting back and thinking about relaxing my seat ( and then doing it!) helps my horse get back to a calm place. If I get myself into a good head space by breathing, my horse begins to trust my body again and relax himself. And then….that ahhhhhhh moment can happen.

  4. Claire says:

    I agree Lexi and Terry! Talking to my horses keeps me focused on what they need from me and I sing to my horses, too. Soothing rhythmic sounds are wonderful ideas, even reciting the alphabet helps. Baby steps build confidence that I needed after a fall off my horse Cody who tends to be very reactive. Learning to exhale, sit in proper position and hold my reins correctly have helped me a lot in learning how to ride a reactive horse. Horses can feel the release of tension and he needs me to be a confident leader.

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