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Confidence Help
How Caitlin got through her confidence problems

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Some Ideas for Nervous Young Riders

DISCLAIMER:

The ideas on this page are simply what I have discovered over the past few months as my horse and I have worked through our problems. It is not intended to be considered absolutely correct and is merely my opinion. It should therefore be read with that in mind.

Six months ago I was too scared to ride my horse due to him bucking more and more frequently. He was also out of control while in contact with other horses and when riding alone he would put his head down and buck, then rear, whenever asked to halt when he didn't want too. On the lunge he had become uncontrollable (at least I had no control) and eventually reared up high enough to pull his bridle off. He also had other 'problems' that rapidly led to a huge drop in my confidence. This year Tisca and I are Pony Club members, regularly ride (and jump) out in the bush with friends and have competed twice (so far -in dressage and an ODE) for two second places. For the past few months Tisca has been (for me) a dream horse, and for three months before that we built up to this stage. Although I don't even begin to believe that we will never ever have problems again - in fact I pretty much expect too - I'd like to think that we have gotten over our first hurdle.

What to do:

1. Find a good, sympathetic instructor. An instructor with children may be able to relate better to confidence problems and how to handle them.

2. Work your horse as often as possible - at least twice a week (preferably more - this may sound like very little - but it is a huge step from not being worked at all). If you don't want to ride your horse, lunge him, and make sure you are lunging effectively and safely. (I wasn't.)

3. When you have lessons, concentrate on YOU, not your horse, your instructor may do the same. By working on your position you can only help your level of control.

4. Lunge your horse the few days leading up to your lesson, so he is not too 'fresh'. Even if lunging isn't absolutely necessary, I found that seeing my horse be calm on the lunge made me much more confident when riding.

5. Your instructor will know how to work through you and your horse's prolbems. I am definitely not in a position to give training advice on any horse other than my own! I think this is excellent advice (it was certainly true in my case):
" You may say here, 'But I can't ride my horse through all those rough patches, I'm not secure enough in my saddle, or I am scared I might get hurt'. Try to deal with all the LITTLE behavioural problems before you deal with the BIG ones, and you may find that half of the big ones have gone away by the time you are ready to deal with them." (From an article in 'Hoofbeats', Vol 19 No 5 - 'Which way is Forward' by Michelle Way. 1998)

6. When you first go out for a ride, go with a friend with a sensible horse, and go after a successful lesson.

7. TALK TO YOUR HORSE!! If you feel him get excited at a halt or walk, rub the base of his neck and soothe him with your voice. Also, if your horse shies, bucks or does something silly - laugh at him - call him a silly idiot or whatever (in a light, jokey voice). This probably has little effect on the horse, but it certainly makes me feel better - and more relaxed to! Laughing is much more fun then panicking anyway - when Tisca pretends to be 'scared' of my instructors horses as he walks by their paddocks (and I know he isn't) and starts snorting and walking backwards, I just say 'You idiot Tisca' (calmly!) and make him walk forward.

And Lastly, I have been lucky in that I own a horse with a good, kind temperament, with a tendency (like most horses) to take advantage of my nervousness. I understand that there are horses out there who will never turn out the way you like (my old horse for example). These 'ideas' are more for the rider who's horse is having a 'stage' and testing your boundaries, and managed to get on top of you, then a rider with a horse with long term personality problems.
Here is some more excellent advice:
"Horses, like children, will test the edges of their acceptable behavious boundaries on a regular basis, and you must be prepared to stand your ground (or sit your saddle, in this case) to ensure that the boundaries are not ignored...It is also important that you realise and appreciate it when he has finally done what was asked."(From an article in 'Hoofbeats', Vol 19 No 5 - 'Which way is Forward' by Michelle Way. 1998)

GOOD LUCK!!!

Do you have your own opinions on this topic? Follow-up articles, and different opinions would be very much appreciated. Email me:

clapton@multiline.com.au