Often it’s not ability that limits us, it’s our minds. I’m not embarrassed to say that I was dogged with self doubt and lacked confidence in myself throughout my career. The quest to be a better rider means at some time you have to face your dragons and tame them! You don’t have to don armour and take up jousting….
We all have mental dragons – be it self doubt, anxiety, fear, lack of confidence, frustration when nothing seems to work and being stuck for ideas… it’s natural to assume that no one else is going through the same thoughts and feelings.
Just as we have dragons, it’s important to realise horses have them too. Mine all seemed to! As prey animals, horses have a strongly developed ‘flight’ response – awareness and fear keep them alive. Developing a partnership with a horse is all about empathy and trust between horse and rider. It’s a two way thing. For example, going cross-country, you need to trust your horse to have the ability to get himself out of trouble if he’s not on a good stride to a fence. Equally he needs to be confident in you when you give him a clear set of instructions.
“At it’s finest, horse and rider are joined not by tack but by trust – each one is reliant upon the other, each one is the selfless guardian of the other’s very well-being.”
In my Training with me page, I talk about allowing a horse to evolve as his own pace. Horses mature physically and mentally at different rates, some are Einstein’s and ‘born athletes’ at four or five, others struggle with their concentration and coordination, so things are much slower to come together. Recognising where your horse is on this development curve is is an important part of training. It can be a long path back once a horse has been over faced and lost its confidence.
Some lucky riders may never come up against any personal dragons but they’d be as rare as dragons teeth. My aim, as a coach, is to help you tame them, to work out where they’re lurking so you are able to overcome any fears or mental blocks and enable you to move forward as a rider.