Whether you’ve had a scary experience or a fall, it’s easy to lose confidence and feel more nervous than you used to. People experience these nerves and fears in different ways – you may try to avoid the situation that made you worried in the first place, become anxious (that butterfly feeling in your stomach) or find yourself freezing and stiffening up as you anticipate something going wrong.
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to try to build your confidence back up so you can enjoy riding again. Start slowly and work at a speed that feels right for you – putting the right foundations into place will help your riding in the long run!
SLOW AND STEADY
If you haven’t felt confident enough to get back in the saddle yet, the best thing is to start on a sensible pony. Your instructor will be able to suggest a super-safe, calm pony for you to try for your first ride back.
Spend some time with your pony on the ground, grooming and chatting to him. The more you get to know him, the more comfortable you’ll feel around him, especially when you’re riding.
TOP TIP – As long as you and your pony aren’t injured, it’s best to get back on as soon as possible after a fall. The longer you put it off, the more nervous you’re likely to feel.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
When you’re ready to get back on, start simple – a lunge lesson is a good idea, or even just having someone walking alongside as you ride can put you more at ease. Keep sessions short to begin with, then gradually increase the length of time you ride for, introducing trot and canter when you feel ready.
Regular lessons will really help you focus on your riding and improve your position in the saddle. The better your position, the more secure you’ll be, which will help you feel safer and more confident.
TOP TIP – Find an instructor who works for you – don’t be afraid to swap until you find someone you click with. The right instructor will improve your confidence in leaps and bounds.
THINK YOURSELF CONFIDENT
Positive thinking is a really powerful tool when it comes to building up confidence. It’s easy to let negative thoughts fill your head, but these can take over and stop you riding properly.
Instead of letting them affect you, visualise the thoughts getting smaller and smaller until they disappear. Then, fill your head with more positive thoughts, such as ‘I know how to do this, I’ve done it before, it’s going to be fine’. Repeating these thoughts in your head can help you feel much more calm and confident, instead of worrying about what could happen.
TOP TIP – Take deep breaths when you’re feeling worried. It’ll help keep the nerves at bay and give you the chance to relax and think positively.
UP IN THE AIR
Beginning to jump again is often one of the more nerve-racking things when it comes to building your confidence back up. But it doesn’t need to be! Again, start simple with poles on the ground and move up to cross-poles when you feel ready.
Once you’ve had a few lessons on a safe pony, your confidence should start to grow as you realise that you can do it. Before you know it, you’ll have built the fences back up to where they were before.
TOP TIP – It’s common when you’re nervous to hold your breath without realising while you’re jumping a course. A good trick is to sing a nursery rhyme to keep you in rhythm and breathing as you ride.
TOP TIP – It can be helpful to put a martingale or neckstrap on your pony to give something for you to hold onto if you’re worried.
TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
The main thing to remember when you’re building your confidence back up is to not put pressure on yourself. Setting small challenges you can overcome can be helpful – such as ‘today I’ll try a canter’.
Too much pressure, such as entering a competition before you’re totally happy jumping again, can give you more of a confidence knock if things don’t go the way you wanted. Build it back up slowly and you’ll be thankful for it!