Now I am an avid poo picker….what has that got to do with confidence? I hear you ask. Well, I’ll explain…. Previously my horses were moved to their new winter grazing, it was a field they had never been in before. My poo picking gives me an insight in to how confident they feel in the field, firstly because I can see if their droppings are normal and secondly I know WHERE they have been grazing in the 2 acres.
Interestingly they spent the first couple of days in the top right of the field near the gate, then they progressed half way down the right side, the next day they ventured to the left and worked their way down from there. A week later, they were grazing all over the field (and I was having to push my barrow a long way!) and then I knew they were comfortable in their surroundings.
In my opinion horses are pretty good at managing their own comfort zones, they slowly increase them if left to their own devices and know they can ‘retreat’ back to their comfort zone if they need to.
As horse handlers and riders I believe it is our responsibility to respect our horse’s confidence as well as our own. Just like us, if you push a horse too far outside of its comfort zone when it is feeling afraid chances are you will experience an over-reaction and the horse will probably be fearful again the next time.
Now I know all horses are individuals, some have very small comfort zones and may stop a few feet from their field or stable indicating they have reached the edge of theirs, whereas others may be comfortable in their own skin and happy to go wherever we ask. Comfort zones vary from horse to horse just as they do person to person and it is up to us to notice and help our horse if we can to slowly increase their confidence.
When we are wrapped up in our own confidence issues it is all too easy to overlook our horses’ in our quest to become braver. Some horses are more sensitive to how we feel than others and we can magnify their confidence issues or help them depending on where we are at ourselves.
Next time you are with your horse notice when they reach the edge of a comfort zone or ‘threshold’, respect it and, if you are able to, help your horse feel more comfortable even if that means ‘retreating’ back into the comfort zone temporarily! By helping your horse you will be focusing less on your own anxiety or fear which will also help you progress as well as improve your bond as they know you are paying attention to them and supporting them in their time of need.
To you and your confidence,
Caroline Andrews - Horse Rider Confidence Specialist