1) Be prepared
We all know the saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Approaching riding without taking the time to ensure you have all the safety measures in place opens your equestrian experience up to nerves and worry. It goes without saying that sturdy boots, gloves and a hat are safety must-haves, but body protectors and air jacket can offer additional safety, both physically and psychologically. Understand horses’ body language. There are tell-tale signs that can assist you in judging how a horse is feeling and so assist you on how to approach any horse and so achieve horse-human interactions that will boost your confidence. One thing that can trigger nerves is rushing, whatever you may be doing approach it knowing you’ve given yourself plenty of time to feel calm and 100% prepared. Approach the horse calmly and at a pace that suits you and them, if you rushed for time it prevents you from assessing the situation and carrying out activities in a confident manner.
2) Build relationships
By understanding the horse, you will achieve the first step to building a strong relationship that offers two-way trust and so, confidence in the ability to be successful together. A trusting horse will show willingness and responsiveness, ultimately giving you the ability to be in control and therefore reassure you in your capabilities. Be consistent, anytime you’re interacting with a horse keep calm and cool, even if things aren’t going well. This consistency will give the horse comfort and let them know they can always rely on you, therefore decreasing the likelihood of them spooking and consequently, scaring you. You may think that success with horses comes down to common sense and natural ability, yes it may help but it is not 100% culpable. A horse naturally follows a positive leader, it’s in their instinct as a herd animal, approach every equestrian experience with an open mind and with the enthusiasm which will help you strive to succeed. On the note of success, every little bit of confidence you gain or achievement you make is something to be celebrated! Never set yourself unachievable goals, approach the situation which the aim of being productive and see elements of achievement as a bonus. Cherish those positive moments and reproduce them every time you engage in an equine practice, leaving any negatives in an imaginary rubbish bin after every experience (easier said than done we know!). The most important thing to remember is everyone has bad days or things that don’t go so well, it’s part of equestrian life, every moment is unique but it’s what you take from it that will shape your confidence and future ability to deal with horses well.
3) Controlling your nerves
Horses can sense and will respond to the feelings of us as a rider, often mirroring the emotion. If you approach a horse with nerves, they will feel the same and it will encourage them to act unpredictably. Nerves stem from overthinking about what bad things may have, be proactive, not reactive. Trying to think about how you’ll resolve any issue you face will worsen your nerves and distract you from noticing when a situation that may cause your horse distress is upcoming. When riding or working with a horse, focus on that situation then, focus on your surroundings and the behaviour of the horse. Not only will this put you in full control but will distract you from having negative thoughts. This mind frame will grow the confidence you have in your ability to deal with the horse in situations that may jeopardise their and your safety, therefore eliminating any fear prior to the experience.