Everyone reading this has had experiences that have shaken their confidence with their horse. Horses are large, quick animals with a mind of their own and, inevitably, go through some unsettling incidents. You may have even been injured at some point. It’s normal to question how to regain your confidence after an accident or injury. Follow these four principles on your way to regain and improve your confidence.
Know your horse.
All horses have certain characteristics that make them simultaneously wonderful partners while frustrating and puzzling to be around. Horses are prey animals that often act first and ask questions later about things they perceive might be a threat. We need to be considerate of this trait, but also help them to become more confident around new or unexpected things that might be scary. Patiently directed training is the key to helping horses become
mature partners.
Each horse is an individual however, so take time to understand the unique nature of your horse. Spend time with it around the barn or pasture to observe how it learns and reacts to new things that come up in its life. Understanding the general nature of horses, and your horse specifically, is key to a successful, confident relationship between the
two of you.
Have a safe riding space.
This includes a safe stabling and tack up area. Our horses should feel comfortable where they live. Have a flat, well-lit tack up area with plenty of space and ability to safely tie. Grooming and tacking up is an important bonding time for the two of you, and a time you can get to know each other. Your riding arena should have good footing, fencing, and be relatively free of distractions. If you are trail riding, allow your horse to take in the new surroundings while you patiently ask it to go forward. Whatever difficulties you have, try to create a constructive environment where you have positive outcomes. Establish clear boundaries, but positive reinforcement works better than punishment. Also, make sure you have safe, well-fitting tack and gear.
Get professional help.
Find a knowledgeable, experienced trainer who is capable of clearly explaining and demonstrating how to develop confidence and competence in your horsemanship. An effective trainer deals equally well with your horse and is able to instruct you. Your trainer will provide exercises on the ground and in the saddle that will help you understand your horse, increase your handling and riding skills, and help you be an independent rider. Good trainers know how to work with you and your horse up to, but not over, your limits. Investing time and money in good training is as essential as good veterinary and farrier care. The old adage, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” really applies to horsemanship.
A lot. It takes a lot of time to acquire the knowledge and experience to be an effective horse person. There is no substitute for time at the barn and in the saddle. If possible, get to know many horses, since that will broaden your abilities. All of us have time constraints in our schedule, so you may not be able to spend as much time with your horse as you like. Just make best use of the time you do have. Be a dedicated student of horsemanship who is both serious and has fun with your horse.
Riding is no fun if you get hurt or have your confidence shaken. Horsemanship is a lifelong pursuit, and the better at it you are, the more safe fun you will have.