All too often, I meet riders who lack self-belief and confidence, who have this bizarre drive to step so far out of their comfort zone that they’re either frozen with terror or become all gung-ho. It’s as if they are so desperate to overcome their fears that they jump in at the deep end and hope for the best, a strategy which at best is unlikely to give them the results they want, and at worst risks a nasty accident.
Taking action and challenging yourself is a huge part of overcoming your confidence crises, but to keep you and your horse as safe as possible, and on a positive upward trajectory, please think about taking small, regular steps towards your goal, rather than one huge leap.
One of the worst parts of my job as a coach is seeing riders fall off. I genuinely hate it, regardless of whether it is a straightforward plop on the ground or a more serious incident. I know logically that falling off is an inherent risk of mounting and riding a 500kg animal, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. I also know the negative impact falls can have on a rider’s confidence. So, I will do everything I can to make sure that the horse stays between the rider and the ground, and if that means making slightly slower progress than other coaches, then so be it! Now don’t get me wrong, I do push my riders, but only within the realms of the current capabilities of both horse and rider, with a view to building positive experiences not going so far that the confidence of either party is lost.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that training for both horse and rider should be progressive, and set them up for success, i.e. a positive learning experience, regardless of the level. But for that to happen, training must be carefully managed by the coach and the rider, particularly when the coach is not there! Incremental stretching of the comfort zone helps to build rider (and horse) confidence.
So what process needs to be followed to ‘stretch’ your comfort zone?
- Assess your current skills and level of confidence
- Know your desired outcome, i.e. what do you want to be able to do?
- Work backwards from the outcome, breaking down the end goal into small, manageable steps
- Make the steps even smaller if necessary!
- Take action on the very first step of your plan
- Celebrate your wins!
- Reflect on what you have found out
- Repeat and practice that first step until it becomes comfortable
- Move onto step 2
- Rinse and repeat
Set yourself up for success by focussing on each little, miniscule step towards your goal. Do it, reflect on it, repeat it until you are completely comfortable with it, and even a little bored by it, then move onto the next step.
Set yourself up for success – the choice is yours!
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