Confidence to Learn….

Confidence to Learn....

So as some of you may know, this weekend is the first of four two day clinics with Craig Stevens – the series of clinics is called “Becoming Classical” – and will be an interesting journey


It will also be a huge learning opportunity for everyone involved – including me


And you know, most of the people coming on this clinic are a bit nervous about it..


So I thought that this week a good topic to look at was “Confidence to learn”


Actually, before we even GET to the content we are here to learn, there are lots of challenges to our confidence:  not all of these will apply to all of us, but let’s think about the possibilities and what could affect our confidence to learn:


Just stepping out of our usual routine

For some of us just the idea of going out of our usual routine can be worrying.  I know that I have this strange thing:  I will book a holiday or trip that I am really eager to go on.  For weeks I will look forward to it with excitement and positive anticipation.  Then, about a week before I am due to go – I start wondering if it is worth the effort, if I have too much to do at home so I can’t possibly spare the time – and many other things.

As I got older I realised that this was a pattern – -and it didn’t necessarily mean I had to cancel my trip.  And as I learned more about human behaviour, psychology – and myself – I found out that this is a relatively common thing.

When the trip is far away, it is something to be excited about, the potential of change is quite alluring.  However, when the trip or change from my usual routine comes close enough to actually be real, almost tangible – that is when my unconscious will try to keep me safe, keep me in the known and cause me to not move out of my usual patterns.

This is normal – but is a bit risk moment of you really want to go somewhere to learn.  Knowing that this pattern happens can help you prepare for it.  I have a couple of people I phone at these times, and they remind me of all the positives I shared so happily with them when I made the plans – and I get through this phase…


Meeting a whole load of new people we have never met before

For some this is the scariest thing of the whole clinic experience: new people, no idea how they might think, be or behave – this is not something we come across in our day to day lives

It is actually quite sensible to be worried – after all, in evolutionary terms,  in ancient times meeting a group of new people was probably a pretty dangerous time – at least until you worked out if they were friend or foe.  So some sensitivity to this situation is quite normal really.

In addition to that, in our current society, meeting new people is most often associated with stressful events: first day at school, first day in a new job – so for many of us any meeting with a group of new people reminds us of those times, and brings up all the associated emotions.


One of the things I have tried to do for these clinics is “talk” to people enough through facebook or email that at least they feel they know me – my NSAE diaries may also have helped – plus this blog!

Also I have met a few of the people face to face – which should help


Interestingly even I still have some qualms about a whole bunch of people together – – what helps is knowing this is normal, and believing that I have strategies for dealing with it.

When I talk to other people who used to be worried about this but now happily go to clinics where there are many people they don’t know – they share three main strategies they use to stay confident:

–          They focus on the fact that whoever is there, they are all there for the same interest, so that must mean they all have something in common

–          They start off by going to clinics where they know at least one person

–          They “chat” to the organiser by phone or email so they feel comfortable with that person before going

What strategies do YOU use?


Meeting the clinician

If meeting new people is a challenge – it can be even worse thinking of meeting a new person who is there to teach us.  Of course this usually has very little to do with the actual clinician and has more to do with several other things:

–          If we are there to learn we are, by default, admitting we do not know everything and are not perfect – that can be hard!

–          In our past, teachers have also evaluated us – so some of us may feel we are about to be measured and tested – not always good for our confidence

–          We might also be wondering whether we are “good enough” to understand and learn what this clinician has to teach us….

In one way it doesn’t really matter which of these is bothering us – and there might even be other things here too.

What DOES matter is that we allow ourselves to become aware of these concerns, and we acknowledge them – getting our unconscious to work WITH us on these issues just as we do on our actual horse riding confidence issues.

When we accept and acknowledge our fears and concerns, then our unconscious can relax and let us get on with things, just popping up now and then to make sure we are staying safe…


Meeting ourselves

One of the hardest things about going on a clinic to learn new things, is we have to accept ourselves as imperfect, as a learner.

We have to give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are in our horsemanship journey.  To be in a place to learn new things, and realise that some of our old thinking may not be the best

To forgive ourselves for not knowing things that no one has taught us before.


We have to be able to let go of our “yes buts” and really hear what the clinician is sharing.

After all, we already know what we know – we are in this clinic to hear what the clinician has to offer us.


And you know, if any of it bothers us, or worries us – well we can ask questions – or just think to ourselves “you know, I liked that first bit – but that second bit doesn’t feel right to me – I will take that away and think about it more at home”


Often in clinics we don‘t have a “second bite” at the learning: they are one off, intense events with no follow up.  So when you get the chance to do a clinic series, or one WITH follow up, those are FAR easier, as you have time to think, absorb – and because of that time, the pressure to understand everything right away is much less, and you can focus on listening, absorbing and understanding what is being offered….


Give yourself permission to be a student:  to NOT understand, to ASK the questions that will help you understand…. and to be confused…..

Knowing you will feel these things, and that these are all part of the learning process – will help your confidence in the learning process, and your ability to do it….



Based on research, lack of confidence in our learning can:

–          Make us  self-critical and doubtful of our own abilities; anxious, nervous, tense, uncomfortable and insecure;

–          Make it harder to  communicate with and interact with others

–          Lead us to avoid certain tasks, especially practicing the skills we are trying to learn



Increasing confidence on the other hand has positive impacts including the ability to:

–          adapt to new situations quicker,

–          take on more responsibility

–           engage more fully in the learning process

–           enjoy learning

–          be more relaxed,

–          be more motivate

–           and interact more easily with others


From these two lists we can see that working on ourselves to build our confidence to learn can have a huge effect on what we can take away from clinics and lessons…


So applying the strategies suggested in this article will really help your confidence to learn.


One thing that gives me the confidence to learn is something I was told some time ago – I didn’t believe it when I heard it, but over time I have realised how true it actually is.


“When you are in a course, your unconscious learns everything – -it is all in there, just ready to come to the surface when it is needed, when it is relevant. “


Just one more reason to get your unconscious working WITH you and not against you – it will make it easier to learn things…


So what do YOU do to enhance your confidence to learn?



Yours, in confidence









5 thoughts on “Confidence to Learn….

  1. I increase my confidence to learn by reminding myself of the positive changes that have resulted lfrom my attendance at previous clinics, and how I have been able to take at least one thing away and apply it successfully later.

  2. Are you reading my mind Cathy?? I am going to take a clinic that I know will stretch me and my mare. It makes me a bit worried at times, and I find myself asking the same questions that you brought up: Will I be good enough, what will happen if I don’t ‘get it’.. I’ve been thinking all those questions thru and have been giving myself positive and supportive answers: I’ve taken a clinic with this fellow before and he sets you up for sucess; no matter how low you think you skill level is,you leave with more skills and strategies to grow; and I trust him. Yes, I will fret beforehand, but I know that we will come out of the clinic in an awesome fashion. Thanks for framing the concerns and worries in such a positive manner!

  3. This is a huge issue with me. I believe that while I am quite intelligent and capable of understanding pretty complex concepts, I do have a kind of learning disability when it comes to practical things and especially everything to do with body control. I am working on this, for example by taking Feldenkrais lessons. One of the reasons I continue with my quest to acquire some riding skill IS to not let this handicap hold me back in my life. But I am very unconvident about learning and need an almost perfect setting to be able to profit. It is especially hard if my horse and I are in a strange place. Even though he is usually a calm horse, in this situation we make each other crazy. I have decided that for now I will limit my riding lessons to well known surroundings. But your post today and everything else I read by you so far makes me hope that things will change and improve for me and my horse. Thank you.

  4. Thank you, Cathy for this blog.

    Its such a relief to know that this is a normal! I have, over the few months, stepped outside my usual comfort zone to attend clinics with unknown instructors and the arguments I had with myself were just as you described. It was only yesterday that I attended a private lesson with an instructor who I’d never met before and, as soon as I accepted the invitation, I was filled with self doubt. I didn’t think I was good enough to go.

    It was such an unneccessary emotional roller coaster! Good clinicians enable us to learn and I really do love learning. My pony and I came home with our original plan still in tact, a good fun way to improve our approach and our results, and this morning I rode my pony at home to find that we both learned so much from the experience.

    Thank you for your post. Its a relief to have clarity.

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