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Rider Confidence Part 3 - Don’t Push Yourself (or your Horse) too far!! 😬

In the first blog in my Rider Confidence series 5 Keys to Building Your Riding Confidence I looked at some key things you can do to boost your confidence levels with your horse. One of these was the topic of last weeks blog on Why groundwork is essential to building your riding confidence. 


So this week I’d like to move on to not pushing yourself or your horse too far.


For this blog mostly I’m going to concentrate on you, the rider...


We often talk about horses being prey animals and their flight instincts but what about the other half of this partnership - the rider?


Why is fear there in the first place? Why are you frightened? What’s the purpose? Well there’s a great saying (no idea who said it), ‘Your brain is there to keep you safe, not happy!’


In my experience there is usually a good reason that someone feels fearful, it’s not silly and it’s not something to be ignored or ‘just gotten over’. Fear is usually there for a reason. Your brain is trying to tell you that something isn’t right or needs to be paid attention to 🧐


If you ignore fear and try to carry on anyway, your brain has a mechanism to go ‘hey, you’re not listening’ and that’s to put even more fear there!! So in actual fact by getting on and doing it anyway you are not getting more confident you are actually making things worse!! 🤯


So what to do? 🤔


Firstly, I take a look at the horse and work out what’s causing the riders fear. Like a say, usually there is a good reason for it. Maybe the horse is spooky, in which case we can work on some strategies on the ground to help build the horses confidence. Maybe the horse is unbalanced and as he gets faster he runs off 🐎 so we can work on his balance at slower gaits until he’s stronger.




Sometimes the rider is struggling with past bad experiences, and it’s nothing to do with their current horse or situation. This type of fear needs to be taken just as seriously and in this case we can get right on and work on the rider.


Here’s how I work with riders...


I try to find the first moment when they are feeling fearful, whether that’s before they even get their horse, when they are about to mount up or when they are are on their horse doing something in particularI work with them at that point.... how does this work in practise?


Let’s use the example of someone who starts feeling fearful when they get on the mounting block. This is probably more common than most would like to admit (!). I will have that person stay on the mounting block and until they feel calm again and then get off and walk away. Walk away?! I hear you say! It’s a funny thing but by walking away from the situation, you calm down, your brain is less on alert and you start to feel like you can do it, it takes the pressure off the situation.


I will have them do that as many times as necessary until standing on the mounting block is no big deal and they can stay up there happily without their heart rate sky rocketing 🚀😓


Next step put foot in the stirrup and take it out again (you don’t stay like that for obvious safety reasons). Foot in, foot out, foot in, foot out and so on until it’s not big deal. Next step up in the stirrup and down again until we can have the rider get on and get off again. By this point they haven’t moved on the horse but usually the fear is starting to subside 😊


Then get on and move a few steps and get off. And so on....




You could do a similar process with someone who is afraid of jumping, starting with a pole, riding over it again and again, then raising it and so on...


In my experience the people who are successful, breakthrough their fear and get to where they can confidently have a great time with their horses are the one’s who listen to their fear, respect it and work with it to completely resolve it.


Lastly, I found this quote which totally sums up this approach...


“The important thing is to take the first step. Bravely overcoming one small fear gives you the courage to take on the next” Daisaku Ikeda


Next week as the next part of the Rider Confidence mini series I’m going to look at when to get off

In the meantime, have a great time with your horses 😃🦄💕


#riderconfidence #confidencewithhorses #fear #overcomingfear #horses #dontpushtoofar


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Before trying any training technique it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.

If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on lylacansfield@hotmail.com


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Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.

Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK.

See www.lylacansfield.com or email lylacansfield@hotmail.com for more details.


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All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible for to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them live. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.

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