Inspirational Riding Solutions have been asked by Confident Rider in Australia to write a regular blog for them answering readers' questions. We thought it would be a good idea to share the Q&As with you, so here's the first (more to come):
I’ve had horses in my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve competed in low level eventing and have a really nice thoroughbred with talent to burn. My problem is that even though I ride regularly, I don’t feel like my horse and I are improving as fast as we should be. I’m losing confidence in my ability as a rider and trainer and often have days when I consider giving up altogether. How can I find the motivation to keep trying?
Hi Cindy. It’s always difficult to pinpoint exactly where the lack of confidence stems from, yet once we can do this, it becomes easier to work with and overcome. It sounds like you are setting high expectations for both yourself and your horse and the impact of you feeling you’re both not improving as fast as you ‘should’ be, will be negatively effecting the way you ride. Very often high expectations create tension and remove the enjoyment from riding – it becomes a task, something to be achieved so that we can move on to the next thing. Any tension in the rider is directly communicated to the horse, thus creating tension (and potentially) anxiety in the horse.
Think back to the very reason why you ride – is it because you enjoy it, or is it because you want the accolade of ‘being the best’ or attaining a certain level in your competing to ‘prove’ something? Once you can remember just how much you enjoy riding, you need to give yourself permission to take the pressure off – start the process by eventing purely for the fun of it, not because you are striving to achieve something at this stage. The transformation you will experience when you remove the pressure will be immense – the positive upshot of this will be that you both start having an enjoyable time, removing the tension and thereby actually improving! The dichotomy is that sometimes the harder we try the less we achieve.
Once you can remove the pressure, you remove the tension and you have fun. Your horse will then feel that eventing isn’t a feeling of being put under enormous pressure and feeling your frustration – your horse will feel that each time you compete, this is something fun to do. As you know, very often the more we enjoy something, naturally we become better at it (that doesn’t remove the need for correct training of both horse and rider – as my co-writer Frances says “practice makes permanence” – you need to practice correctness – just without the pressure).
Another thing to practice is to do something different each time you ride – mix things up a bit, particularly for your horse (depending on his/her personality type). Play some groundwork games, go out hacking, do things that are not the norm to give both yourself (and more importantly) your horse a bit of a change. By working on your relationship on the ground, the bond between the two of your will be stronger as you develop a deeper level of communication – this again will improve the motivation for both of you.
Try to understand life from your horse’s perspective – what happens each time you arrive at the stables? Think what your horse needs from you, depending on his/her personality type (does he like stability and routine, does he have a higher or lower energy level, does he get bored easily, does he always try to please – all of these things will be important in understanding what your horse needs from you; remember his/her needs may be very different from your needs!)?
As a trainer you will be able to assess what type of personality your horse has, depending on his/her energy levels and dominance levels. You can then build your training according to what the horse needs – for example, if your horse doesn’t respond well to a fast pace of training, you may need to build exercises to develop confidence in the small training steps/achievements before moving on to the next step/level. There are lots of groundwork exercises that can do this, so it may be a case of starting with a blank sheet of paper, assessing your horses’ needs and designing a training programme that might need to take you back to basics.
For more information on our Personality Matters! Definitions of horse personalities, please see our website: www.InspirationalRidingSolutions.com . Good luck and start enjoying eventing again!