“OK so I’m very confident handling my horse on the ground, and she trusts me to know what’s OK and what’s not, but as soon as I get on her all my confidence flies out of the window, and naturally this upsets her, because she’s expecting me to tell her everything’s business as usual! I want to get up there and get on, and I’m worried that if carry on like this she’ll lose confidence in me generally.
And it’s not helpful when everyone keeps tellng you you’re safer on board than on the ground – I know that!!!! Thanks xxx”
You raise a couple of very valuable points:
1. When WE are unconfident as riders, our horses can pick this up and over time (or sometimes immediately if our horse is not innately confident) they can lose confidence too — which then becomes a real mess as both horse AND human are now unconfident and unable to support each other.
You are very astute to recognise this before it becomes an issue.
2. Many people say you are safer on board your horse than on the ground — others say you are safer on the ground than on the horse — who is right? it depends!
For some people who ONLY ride and don’t do groundwork, it is probably true that THEY are safer on board their horse than on the ground.
For those who do groundwork – or who have just naturally developed good ground manners in their horses — then the opposite is true — those people are safer on the GROUND than on their horse.
From what you say, with your lack of confidence at the moment when riding, and your confidence in your horse on the gorund — you would actually be FAR safer on the ground than in the saddle right now.
So first of all — relax. ENJOY the relationship you have with your horse on the ground. In fact you can take this further by taking advantge of your ground relationship to build your confidence in your horse and her confidence in you. As an example, Kelly Marks has written a book called Perfect Manners which has some really good exercises you can do to become excellent in all aspects of groundwork, or there are the Parelli games which are also useful as a ground foundation.
One benefit of doing these exercises is that when you DO ride, you KNOW you can get off safely. How much more confident will you be when you know you have that option to just get off and continue your ride from the ground?
Ok, so now to your actual question: how to build your riding confidence.
If I met you and we were working together I would ask you lots of questions here about your riding experience, WHEN you became unconfident about riding and so on…but even without those answers we can make some progress.
First lets explore WHY often we are less confident riding our horse than when we are on the ground. There are several reasons, and the easiest way to think about this is to ask what is different when we are on our horse vs on the ground?
* on the ground, we can SEE our horse, particularly their faces — so we can read their expressions, and understand how they are feeling. *on their back, we lose a lot of this information — we have only the feeling of their body and the sight of their ears to help us…
* on the ground we are free to move wherever we want to keep ourselves safe…
* on their backs, we are “trapped” and cannot move our own feet to get out of the way of any trouble
So it is quite logical that for some of us getting on our horses causes out confidence to drop as we lose a large part of our ability to read our horse AND we lose the ability to move ourselves…and giving up any control can be scary for humans.
I wonder how much riding experience you have had…because one thing to think about to help with your riding confidence is to actually go and have riding lessons on another horse. Develop your confidence just in riding — then bring that riding confidence to YOUR horse…
One person I worked with had decided to not ride her horse — to just have fun on the ground and maybe learn to drive her. She came to me for an overnight visit — we had her ride my horse on the lunge in the afternoon of the day she arrived, then the next morning she rode her on and off the lunge. In doing this she discovered that she had very little knoweldge and understanding of riding — yes, she had learned the mechanics of it, but did not really understand WHY those mechanics worked. And, not surprisingly, for some of us, if we don’t understand WHY something works, we dont feel safe with it.
She went home that afternoon — and was sitting on her horse the next day. With a bit more support (some riding lessons) she and her horse, a few months later, were hacking out happily in the New Forest and she could hardly remember why she had been so worried.
So you can see there are good reasons why for some of us, riding is so much more scary than being on the ground — and you know there ARE things you can do about it…
Building your knowledge and understanding of riding, AND building your ability to READ your horse, will really help the two of you get a good riding relationship — and while you are doing that you can use your ground work to have fun on the ground.
Feel free to message me with follow up questions or comments — as sometimes these things require a longer conversation!
yours in confidence,