sometimes its not about the horse…..


“I have always been a confident rider — but about 6 months ago I started worrying when out hacking. I tend to go on the same 5 or 6 routes and have always enjoyed them (for 5 years!) but in the last 6 months I have started being nervous about what my horse might do, about the traffic, about anything really. Sometimes I realise this is ridiculous, but at the time the fear is very real — what can I do?” 

In an earlier post I wrote about how if you “grit your teeth” to do something then eventually you can end up very scared of that something…but in this case, you have been hacking out happily for years and only in the last 6 months have you felt a loss of confidence so this is different.

Remember the very first post when I talked about fear being our unconscious mind’s way of keeping us safe? of protecting us?

And how sometimes that doesn’t always work as well as we woud like it to — for example when we sprain an ankle, we can find ourselves still favouring that leg months after it it totally healed…

well, the unconscious can also be very smart.

The result is that sometimes, what we THINK we are scared of — is not the issue at all.

I would like to ask you — what ELSE changed in your life about 6 months ago?

Let me share an example. A friend of mine came to me because she had recently lost all confidence in riding — and had stopped hacking out, which she LOVED, she was so worried. We did a coaching session — and because of my background as a coach (20 years of coaching in business and life has got to teach me something!) we uncovered that about the same time as when she lost her confidence in her horse, she had started having doubts about her relationship with her partner. She had labelled those doubts as ” a wobble” and ignored them — but that was when her fear of riding had come up.

I thought ” How interesting!”. You see, what our brain sometimes does when we suppress a worry or fear, or tell ourselves ” I shouldn’t be worried about that”…is it obeys us, it doesn’t worry about THAT — but it transfers the fear to somewhere we feel more “allowed” to worry — and it is much safer to worry about horse riding than your relationship with your partner of 20 years…

In this case, my friend went home and had a long talk with her partner — they discovered they were still wanting to be together, sorted things out and are now more rock solid than ever. And guess what — her riding confidence has come back as well.

So when something you have BEEN confident about suddenly becomes scary — ask yourself what ELSE changed at the same time and you will often find the real issue to focus on.


Another aspect of this is the TIMING of our unconfidence:  often we are fine when we are having riding lessons, sharing a horse  or some other form of limited access to our horse time.  And we tell ourselves “if only I had my own horse”; “if only I had an arena”, “if only…” and say things would be so difference if those “if only’s” were to come true.

And then — through some miracle or, more often, through hard work and determination we end up in a place where all those “if only’s” are taken care of — and BAM!  unconfidence strikes.

That happened to a client.  For a long time she had looked forward to moving to a place with a proper arena, fields for hacking round — if only she had these things, she was sure her riding would come on in leaps and bounds.

Then she moved to such a place:  two arenas, one indoor — tracks around the 300 acre farm and it all backed right onto some forestry land, so hacking on the doorstep.

And she stopped riding!

At first it was just that she didn’t have time, or there were other things to do — by the time we talked she hadn’t done anything other than go to the yard and feed and groom her horse for 6 weeks.

What on earth was going on here?  At last she was in the place of her dreams, where she could do all the things she had ever wanted to — and she wasn’t doing ANYTHING.

That was the key.  Now she COULD do anything.  Before being at this place, she couldn’t just jump on her horse and head off into the wild blue yonder, because there was a main road;  she couldn’t canter because she only had her field to ride in and the surface wasn’t good enough — these EXTERNAL factors kept her safe.

Now those external controls were gone, her unconscious realised that she MIGHT hack out, she MIGHT canter — and, in its efforts to make sure she stayed safe — was stopping her from doing anything.

In this case we went through the parts integration process (outlined in the Confidence Kidnappers article)  and by getting her unconscious and conscious minds to negotiate a contract where she would stay safe and progress step by step — her fear and unconfidence disappeared and she was able to start enjoying her horse again.

In both these cases, it wasn’t about the horse, or the riding, or the skill level – -or any of these things.  It was about how our unconscious mind reacts to other things in our lives in its efforts to keep us safe

What do you think your unconscious might be saying to you?


yours, in confidence


12 thoughts on “sometimes its not about the horse…..

  1. I’ve been dealing with this bit by bit. Had sudden and very serious (life threatening) surgery years ago, and I was certain I’d never ride again. Through exercise and lots and lots of effort, I started riding again. Haven’t become my old self though because I fear that somehow it’s all gonna reverse itself on me. My thinking was going something like this “the more I try, the more likely it is that I’ll end up too sick to ride”. It’s irrational,but the mind works in strange ways.

    • The mind is a strange and marvellous thing. And that fear of reversal is not uncommon. sometimes reprogramming your brain to realise that you are past that possibility is a way forwards — feel free to email to chat about this if you want.
      Also take a look at the “confidence kidnappers” article as that has a method that can be used to talk and work with your fears and anxieties instead of them holding you hostage


  2. Completely agree! It is not always possible to deal and sort the problem that is causing the wobble . Some times we just have to find a way to leave it all at the gate and put a bubble around ourselves and our horse. I think that is where being in the moment can help.

    When i had a confidence crisis with my horse and struggled to overcome it for a while I stuck to ground work – either in the school or taking him for long walks on our hacking routes. Eventually seeing how he reacted to things and talking things through with him 😀 eventually led me to getting back n the saddle.


  3. Hi Cathy,

    I think I may be in need of your help, I recently fell off my young horse and it has knocked my confidence a bit. What woiuld you recommend?



    • Hi Justine — thats not a nice thing to happen and it can knock confidence — the real thing to find out is what sort of confidence knock you have as that leads to a different solution: if your confidence knock is because your unconscious says you don’t know what you are doing — then learning and practicing will sort it out; if your confidence drop is because you are not sure you will be able to predict when this might happen again, then learning to read your horse and predict the behavoiur and moments will be helpful — there are other things it could be as well, so perhaps if you write the longer version of the story and email it to me I might have some better ideas?


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