Nerves – Small steps to Progress

So, the last time I wrote, (see my last post) it was on a subject that I personally have battled with. It appears from the feedback that sadly many of us suffer with nerves. I thought I would continue with this theme in the hope that by sharing my experiences I may make other nervous riders feel less alone.

My key point today is that however hard at times my battle with my nerves is, I keep going. I persevere with it and make small baby steps.

Being at work full-time and now having a dog to walk, it is very easy for me to make excuses. I often avoid putting myself into situations that could help my confidence grow. Usually because putting myself into that situation means battling with my fear.

Excuses aside, some days I have just gone for it! I have tacked up with no one around and went for it. It may have only been a small achievement, hacking round one field at a time. BUT, I did it.

Each time I have taken that small step it has paid off; it has chipped away at my fear. Sometimes it seems like I will never diminish the nerves but other times I feel like I am gaining back my control. The more I realise that I am not alone in being a nervous rider, the better I feel. I have chosen to be OK with it, because I know slowly but surely, I am doing something about it. Each attempt brings me closer towards my goal.

I look back at a lot of my riding experiences (the scary ones) and it comes down to the conversation between me and my horse. When the conversation wasn’t flowing it was usually because I felt at risk that a dangerous event may occur that could hurt either me or my horse. The fear of the event shut off any communication between me and my horse. The conversation can be a subtle experience – some people aren’t even aware of the fact that the horse they ride lacks the ability or confidence to speak to them! I certainly didn’t realise how much my own horse relies on me to give her confidence and positive conversations. I have had it the wrong way around for so long. I have always looked to the horse to give me the confidence.

The conversation first starts with listening. We as riders listen to our horse through multiple cues – the posture, the movement and the ‘feel’ of their emotions. Horses listen to us as riders via our posture, our tone and our aid. For me, my horse feels my emotions too, my fear.

As for posture, well…. my own posture has its downsides. You only have to ask my friend Debbie (movement educator, sports therapist and now author) I have worked with Debbie to adjust my posture and movement off the horse. Aiming to put my changes to good when on the horse. But… I know the minute my nerves kick in my body language changes. I turn tense in the saddle like my body has frozen and I want to curl into the foetal position! Although this is not something I can just switch off, each time I am making brave steps to change, I am becoming consciously aware of what my body is doing. I am learning to recognise what signal I am sending to my horse, whether it is good or bad, it gives me a chance to change it.

There is a lot of things to think of to make positive changes that will aid in improving confidence and in turn the conversation with your horse. Breaking it down into small bite size chunks is making me personally feel it could be achievable!

Sadly, no huge achievements to report of as of yet we are still working on it. I have been able to hack around a few of the fields at the farm without wanting to jump off and lead my horse back home!

I will keep you all updated on my progress and would love to hear about yours.

Thanks for reading