As promised, here is the first of many (I hope) guest blogs from readers sharing their own confidence stories or thoughts. This one is from Gill — please feel free to ask her any questions in the comments section! Over to you Gill:
Regaining my confidence after a break from riding has been interesting. I learned to ride at the age of 24 in 1974, whilst working as a nurse, my students used to point out all the people in the orthopaedic ward who had fallen off horses!! Not a great start.
Anyway I continued and took BHS stage 1 and 2 in 1976/77 before cutting back on my riding to have a family.
My second daughter was instrumental in me buying our first pony – we still have this pony – now 26.
Kit was never an easy ride, spooky and a “forwardaholic” – extreme right brained extrovert in Parelli terms. No standstill and few brakes round the show jumps, but we love her and didn’t at that point want her any different.
The pony was wonderful once you learned to push the right buttons and all I did was think what i wanted to do and she would oblige – so subtle were the aids.
Over the year however I fell off her quite often – usually when walking round the sand school or fields as she was very quick to out focus me and gradually I lost my previous confidence. Even riding our very laid back cob was at first challenging – he is very inquisitive and always has his pricked forward – now if that had been Kit I knew I had lost her attention and she was about to spook at something. However Dougal was a gem and we would happily hack out with friends or alone. We started western riding and dabbled with the Parelli training methods. I could ride Dougal with just seat and leg aids – no reins required.
Then my older daughter took him to Devon so that left me with Kit who was still dumping me on the floor occasionally. Eventually Kit went to be with my youngest daughter in Littlehampton. So I was horseless and happy after years of looking after them and driving around the country with my daughter competing. It was quite enjoyable for a year or 2, then we went to James Roberts Foundation Station in Wiltshire to have my daughters ex-show jumper restarted. (That is another story of broken confidence).
James is a 3* Parelli professional and is brilliant at getting down to the nitty gritty of problems and making a plan for you to work through to gain confidence by working with the horse and not against it.
In August this year we took a youngster to James to be started and took the show jumper for an Experience week. Watching this and the other students got me so enthusiastic that I wanted to join in! As my pony is semi-retired I went home to look for something to ride – my friend offered her hafflinger.
This pony is 14.1 so small enough for me to feel safe on, I started having western lessons on her and am really enjoying the experience. Even after only 3 lessons my instructor can see a difference, the instructor understands my lack of confidence and we work together so I feel safe.
Other things have helped – Cathy’s blog has been inspirational and I have been re-reading Mary Wanless’s book “Ride with your Mind Essentials” – lots of exercises to improve core strength, correct breathing and improving posture.
What I visualise is the JRFS students doing an exercise to improve jumping turns and prepare the horse for canter pirouettes, I was virtually riding these whilst watching them – as I knew I could do this in the past and there is no reason why I can’t do it again. In my last western lesson I was loping quite happily round cones and felt very secure – this is what I will remember next time and gradually build on this.
I have recently ridden Dougal and Kit and have now bought another little cob – Benny – to continue my journey. Benny and I will be going to James Roberts next April to improve together and hopefully learn some more strategies for being safe and secure in the saddle and have some fun.
The photo is of me on Dougal – with my tongue out I was concentrating so hard! I will get some of Benny and me together once has settled in.
Thanks for the article Gill! The more we share our confidence stories and realise we are not alone, and that there are many paths to confidence — the more confident we can all be about our futures with our horses.