“Sometimes I am half way through doing something — and then I realise I am SCARED!! not just unconfident but SCARED! — I seem to start things feeling ok and then get into trouble — how can I keep TRACK of my confidence so I don’t get into these scary situations — if, as you say my unconscious needs to keep me safe I am not doing a very good job right now!!!”
Excellent question — and you are RIGHT that if you can’t keep track of your confidence, and let yourself get scared, then each time that happens your unconscious trusts you a little bit less…
So lets talk about how we can increase what I call our “Confidence Awareness”.
We do this by SCORING our UNconfidence…
Now, when I am thinking of doing something with my horse, I MEASURE my confidence or unconfidence on this task or activity. . I give it a number.
On a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is I don’t even have to think about it, I could do the task standing on my head; and where 10 is “never in a million years will I do that!” – I ask myself where this task is on that scoring system.
If it is over 5 – I DON’T DO IT.
Simple as that.
If the score is 0,1,2,3,4 or 5 – then I will give it a go.
If the score is 6 – I don’t do the thing that gives me that score – I do something else that IS a 5 or under.
Let me give you an example.
The other day, out on a hack, there was a small (18inch high) log across the track – with no way around it. Now, I have to admit when I saw it lying there, my score went up to a 9! There was no WAY I was going near that. There are all sorts of reasons for this – my horse cat leaps, I don’t have much jumping experience, my horse is green – the thing is though, that I was NOT below 5. Now, as I looked more closely, my initial score went from 9 to 6. Not a panic – but I was definitely not happy about jumping this.
So I said to my unconscious – ok, jumping this is a 6 – therefore I am NOT going to jump it.
As soon as I said this, I felt my stomach calm, and the tightness that had been up in my chest, settled and lowered down into my belly area. That felt better. Now my unconscious knew I was not going to put myself at risk, it allowed the feelings to settle down enough that I could think.
The next thing I did was ask myself – so what COULD I do that would give me a score of 5 or under?
Now, I have taught my horse to walk over poles. And small jumps. So I was pretty sure if I just walked her slowly up to this log, she would step over it rather than try and jump. She is also a horse who likes to conserve energy, which helped me believe this.
I asked myself – what score do I have when I picture myself walking up to that log and stepping over it?
I listened for the answer: it came back as a 3.
So that is what we did.
Now it is your turn to practice becoming aware of your confidence level – and respecting it.
Here is your exercise:
1. Take you horse to an area where you usually feel safe. This could be an arena, a round pen – or your field. Wherever you feel happy to be with your horse with a lead rope and halter.
2. Then, as you do each of the following tasks, check inside yourself to see what your unconfidence score is. And notice when it goes above 5. When it goes above five – just stop what you are doing and go back to the previous task. Here is an example of mine:
Task: Score: Comments on my score:
Pick up my horse’s feet 3 then 7 went to 7 when she pulled her leg back
3. Remember, the purpose of this exercise is for you to become skilful at reading your own unconfidence levels, as this is the FIRST step to doing something to CHANGE your confidence levels.
When I run courses (Hacking with Confidence, or Confidence workshops for Horses and Humans) I constantly check in with the participants calling out “what number are you at right now?” and whenever I ask someone to try something new, I ask them “what number does that put you at?”.
This way people can learn and stay safe…very important for building confidence!
4. Do this for each of the tasks I list below: write down your feelings and then take a look and think about how hard or easy it was for you to read your own confidence levels. Many people can only do the first two tasks and stay below a 5 when they first do this exercise
Rub your horse all over – including belly and between back legs
Pick up your horse’s feet – all four, front and rear – and tap them with a hoofpick
Lift your horse’s tail
Find a mounting block or something to stand on – lean over your horse and rub the FAR side of him
While on the block or log, lift your leg and rub him with your leg – make sure to include his rear end in the rubbing
With your hands on your horse’s withers, bounce up and down next to him
Now jump up and lie with your belly button on his withers – remember if you go over a 5 get off again and go back to the previous task
While lying there, swing your legs back and forth so they rub your horse’s side
While lying there, swing your legs so you are lying ALONG your horse’s back.
Remember it doesn’t MATTER what your score it — what matters is you are learning to RECOGNISE it – –
Practising this on a daily basis with everything you do with your horse will help you become aware of your unconfidence BEFORE it escalates to fear — which will give you a LOT more opportunity to do something about it
As for what you do about it — well — lets see if we get a question about what we can do NEXT to develop our confidence!
yours in confidence