How to stop other people’s opinions and advice from undermining your riding confidence

I’ve had a number of conversations this week with clients who have been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, judgement and negativity from someone on their yard. The riders hadn’t asked for help, but the other person had felt compelled in the moment to share their own thoughts and comments about the horse’s way of going, the training methods or the rider’s skills.

The impact of hearing these often unhelpful comments, can increase feelings of self-doubt, a loss of confidence and a fear of judgement. 

In the melting pot of a livery yard, especially when the person giving their opinions is a Coach that you don’t even train with, it can be hard not to take these sometimes hurtful comments to heart (even if they were shared with the best of intentions), and it can lead to a gradual erosion of confidence in the rider.

So how can we manage these situations?

Here are my top ways to manage those situations where someone decides to share their opinions with you…

Did you ask for advice?

It could be that you have asked someone what they think, and perhaps their feedback wasn’t quite what you expected. If this is the case, explore the validity of their comments, both in terms of their experience and qualifications, their intentions in how they have explained their thoughts, and also how you are interpreting their advice. You can choose to take or leave their guidance, however I would suggest that if you have asked them, then you value their opinion. It’s important to only ask advice from people you know, like and trust!

If you didn’t ask for advice from this person, and they have given it anyway… read on!

Opinions are not facts

Opinions, advice and guidance can be driven by a whole range of factors, including previous experiences, training, qualifications, personal bias and prejudice, the individual’s limiting beliefs, thought patterns, current emotional state, and their habits and behaviours to meet their own needs. 

Therefore, someone’s opinion is only ever a reflection of themselves and their perception of the world around them. I’ll say it again, opinions are not facts.

You can choose at any point to acknowledge someone else’s point of view, but you do not have to agree with it, nor do you have to internalise it and allow it to shake your self-belief or self-confidence. 

Ask yourself, “what is the factual evidence that you are actually doing the very best you can, with the practical and mindset skills you have available to you, right now?”. This will help you see the broader context of where you and your horse are in your riding and training journey, and remind you that you are following a plan of action that is appropriate for you and your horse. 

Your response

When someone shares their unwanted opinions about what you are doing with your horse, it’s important that you don’t get drawn into their justification of why they believe they are right. The simplest way to do this is to acknowledge that they have tried to help you by sharing their thoughts, thank them for doing so, then move on.

For example:

“That’s really interesting! Thank you so much for your help / thoughts / advice. I’m always working on improving myself and my horse / I’ll have a good think about what you’ve suggested / I’ll discuss with my Coach next time I see her/him”

At this point you can either change the topic of conversation, or simply walk away. 

The person feels validated that you have heard what they have said, and that you will take it into consideration, however at no point have you felt under obligation to agree with them or felt under any pressure to change what you’re doing just because they don’t like / agree with it.

Reinforce your self-belief

In order to stop letting other people’s unwanted opinions negatively affect you, it’s important to be rock solid in knowing your own values around riding and training your horse. 

For example, if your values in training your horse include kindness, doing what’s right for you and your horse, building a positive relationship with your horse, implementing step-by-step training methods, progressively improving your riding and your horse’s way of going, and staying safe, then as long as what you are doing is in line with these, you will form strong self-belief and you’ll be able to disregard the comments from anyone who is not in your team. 

This starts with exploring exactly what your values are around riding and training your horse, and this is just one of the things you can work through in my Crack the Confidence Code membership programme.

Have the right people in your team

“We are the sum of the 5 people we spend most time with” Jim Rohn

I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t listen to anyone at all! Every rider needs a team of people around them who they can trust to provide constructive advice and support. Your team might include professionals such as your Equestrian Coach, Vet, Physiotherapist, Confidence & Mindset Coach, Yard owner, etc., or friends and family who have your best interests at heart, and understand what you are trying to achieve. Think about who you trust, who offers positive, constructive support and who will boost and reassure you in those inevitable moments of doubt that we all experience from time to time. 

If you receive advice and comments from someone who is not in your trusted inner circle, then you do not have to listen and take on their opinions. You can choose to disregard them.

Everybody in the equestrian industry has an opinion, and some are not backward in coming forward (especially on social media!), which means that riders can feel pulled from pillar to post when following one person’s advice, then changing tack when someone else says something different. 

It’s really important to know your values and what’s important to you around riding and training your horse, build a team of trusted people who have your back, and have a strategy for dealing with people who insist on sharing their opinions with you. 

When you have this in place, you’ll be much more confident that you are doing the best thing for you and your horse, right now. Be determined, be resilient and stick to your guns!

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