This time I want to talk briefly about that the fact that you know you are confident when you can think clearly in whatever situation presents itself. So often we are plagued by thoughts of ‘oh no there’s a flapping tarp’, ‘there’s a barking dog, oh my goodness what’s going to happen?’, ‘what if those horses come cantering down the bridle path at me?’ and so on. Our minds race at the slightest suggestion of something that may ‘scare’ our horse and we have a tendency to overreact.
Calmness = confidence, as does clarity of thought. I like to think of myself as The Terminator (no, I am not looking for a target to ‘acquire’), assessing my environment with indifference. This means I am aware of what is around me without feeling anything or reacting to it, I remain calm yet aware (well 95% of the time anyway). I am able to assess when there is a real danger and think clearly enough to take the necessary action, whether that is getting off, changing course or simply stopping for a moment to give my horse a chance to think.
I also use my common sense and ride when I have the highest chance of having an enjoyable time. That means I don’t ride when the hunt’s about or the shoot is on, nor do I ride in a howling gale. I am also very discerning about who I ride out with. So often we can push on regardless with a misguided sense of pride / ego, ignoring our intuition, and then wonder why it all goes pear shaped. It’s ok to decide not to ride when there is a genuine cause for concern. The challenge is being able to tell the difference between ‘real’ situations and ‘imagined’ ones.
As an example I was playing with my mare, Millie, at liberty in a round pen. Now I hadn’t done this for a while and, despite my strong connection with her, she needs to know I am ‘worthy’ of being her leader. This means she has a tendency to get over exuberant, lots of bucking and charging about. She will run in towards me, not aggressively at all, just rather enthusiastically and I will send her back out until she calms down. On this particular occasion she was rather more excitable than I have experienced in some years and I had a moment of ‘maybe I should leave the round pen until she calms down’. Now, I could have interpreted this as fear however, I knew my gut instinct had kicked in and was advising me to assess my situation. I did, and reminded myself that Millie has never caused me any harm while playing at liberty, she is very sweet natured, and I have enough skill to handle the enthusiasm. I stayed put and within a couple of minutes had her circling around me in a calm walk!
There are 2 main keys to calmness, one is to breathe deeply, down into your diaphragm, and keep breathing deeply until you feel yourself relax and the other is to learn to live in the moment. Our fears come from either reliving past events or imagining future ones, say to yourself ‘right here, right now, I am ok’. And finally, as always, trust your gut instinct.
To you and your confidence,
Caroline Andrews - Horse Rider Confidence Specialist