How to Build Confidence? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 01-01-2012, 11:58 PM Thread Starter
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How to Build Confidence?

I'm 16, I just bought my first horse, an (almost) 5 year old mare. She is broke, but she is young. She is 15h, and I feel like she is the perfect size for me. I have been riding for about 2 1/2 years off and on now, but have never taken proper lessons.

I was never raised around horses, so the only experience I had was when I used to help with training/re-training horses on a small farm with a family friend, who was my mentor in all things horses. He is like a second father, and the only person that I feel comfortable when it comes to horses around. I have no friends who are interested in horses.

All of my riding experience has been trail riding and putting riding time on green horses (always with a helmet!) I have only been bucked completely off one time (a year ago, of a 3yo 17h QH) and it absolutely shattered my already very shaky confidence in my horsemanship.

I had been on a trail ride with my mentor and some of his friends on a horse we had been working with recently. All morning she had been perfect for him, so he let me ride her for a little bit on the way home, when she spooked and crow hopped until I plopped right off. After the initial realization, I was stunned. As cliche as it sounds the phrase "real cowgirls don't cry," so I blinked back my tears, and tried to climb back on. My friend immediately had me switch back to the old bombproof gelding I had been riding the whole morning.

I remained shaken and was very wary of riding that same horse, as well as nearly every other horse, although she never gave me any more problems, and is now a very well rounded mare. Now whenever I get on a horse, I expect the worst, and every time they trip, my heart skips a beat. I know the horse can feel my fear, and I hate feeling so weak. I don't feel like I deserve to own the horse I have, I've only ridden her once in the time I've owned her (2 months.) I want to never be afraid of my horse, and never question trusting her, and vice versa.

I also am so afraid of being criticized or being told that I am a foolish/unworthy horse owner/rider. I don't keep my horse where my mentor lives, and the people I keep her with don't know my riding abilities or history; I barely know them.

Long story short, I don't know how to build confidence in myself as a horsewoman, nor how to get over my fear of being criticized. Does anybody else lack confidence in their riding abilities or know any ways to help? I just feel lost.
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post #2 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 01:14 AM
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Do you ride english or western? &start off at YOUR comfort zone. I'm currently working w/ a 16.3HH 16yrold TB who is NOT bombproof. At all... Very nerve racking seeing as he broke my wrist &shattered my foot. I'm a little shaky as well getting on my TB BUT I get on &trot &walk. (Right now, working in MY comfort zone) &sometimes ill ride a friend of mines TB whose a little smaller who IS bombproof to help build up confidence. Do you know of a horse who your comfortable w/? That you can practice on!
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post #3 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 01:46 AM
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If you are unconfident why did you buy a young horse? Bit silly really, almost like asking for trouble.

The best way to rebuild your confidence is by spending more time riding without anything bad happening. Anything bad does not neccisarily mean falling off, but generally situations that make you feel unsafe or out of control, as these could further damage your confidence. So ride horses you feel comfortable riding, doing things that you feel safe doing. Hopefully you wilk begin to feel more confident and comfortable.
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post #4 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 06:30 AM
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I see this recurring theme over and over here:

"I've never taken lessons"
"I don't want to take lessons"
"I've always figured it out myself"
"I'll learn how to ride by myself"


Go get lessons. Seriously.

As far as criticism, I can't help you there. Seems to be a common theme these days in the age of not hurting anyone's feelings.
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post #5 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 07:06 AM
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I'm going to expand on what I said above since this place blocks you from editing what you write.

Confidence comes from competence.

Competence comes from FREQUENT and CORRECT practice.

Frequent practice means lots of seat time on a horse. Like at least three or four hours a week, minimum.

Correct practice comes from correct instruction. There's a saying that goes "you don't know what you don't know". Think about that. It means that you could go years trying to figure this out on your own with huge gaps in your horsemanship without you even realizing it.

There are no shortcuts.
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post #6 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 12:09 PM
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Ride, ride often, and ride some more. Trainer once told me no one is pretty at first and to just keep riding. Also fall get back up and keep on riding.

I have broken bones. I don't even count the number of times I have fallen or come off a horse. The way I figure the worse thats going to happen is I die. I will at least died at something I enjoy.

Fear is the biggest obsticle.
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post #7 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 12:25 PM
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I had a bad, bad accident about 6 years ago. I had been riding for 17 years and was the most confident person ever. I could ride any horse. Then I got thrown and hit a log exactly in the right spot to shatter my back. After months in the hospital and a couple of years of physical therapy, I still had not gotten on a horse. I bought my horse Jester in August of 2010 and he's just so lazy, I thought I wanted something more. I wanted to get back into eventing and Jester would never excel at something like that. So I kept training him for hunters and went out and bought an "experienced, bombproof, beginners event horse". Yeah....that horse must have been aced up to his ears when I test rode him! He's NUTS!

For a long while after I got him, I was afraid to trot him. I felt so imcompetent and disappointed in myself for lacking the confidence to test him or to ride it out when he would test me. The kicker was when I saw on his previous owner's FB that her new horse is "totally calm and not spooky at all. QUITE unlike her last horse" (meaning Charlie). Ummm, thanks for giving him to someone with serious confidence issues! I've thought about selling him more times than I can count.

The more time I spend with him and on his back, the more I'm comfortable with him. I took some lessons, but wasn't at a place where I could do everything I was asked because I was so locked up in fear. So I stopped with the lessons and just relaxed with him. We go on trail rides and to the beach with friends and just have fun. I've gotten to the point where I can gallop him on the beach and we've just started jumping again. Now I feel as if I'm at the point where lessons will benefit us both so we start in a couple of weeks.

My point is, you're not alone. Even the most experienced horseperson finds a point where they need a confidence builder. Was it the best idea to buy a green horse? No, but that doesn't mean you will never ride her. I have to echo the other posts and say to take lessons. It's really the only way you will learn to ride effectively enough to ride her. If you're not riding effectively, you will come off, plain and simple. If you learn once and for all how to correctly ride a horse, you will find your confidence building more and more. I guarantee it.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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post #8 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 12:52 PM
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meli, as a self-learned rider myself I found that consistent lessons with the good encouraging trainer knowing how to work with the green rider/green horse help tremendously in building confidence and foundation for both - horse and the rider.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
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post #9 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Saskia View Post
If you are unconfident why did you buy a young horse? Bit silly really, almost like asking for trouble.
Yeah, I agree.

I'm fairly green myself and that is why I ride a 10 yo horse that is reliable. She's spooked on me once, but a horse is a horse, that's bound to happen.

She definitely saved me from hitting the dirt more than once when I was learning to canter.
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post #10 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 10:50 PM
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I'm an advanced beginner and my horse is solid in w/t but learning canter. We were both green at the beginning, and we had some very scary and dangerous incidents. It wasn't a trainer who got through to us.. it was me changing my attitude and making small goals happen. The trainer came later once my horse and I learned to communicate our desires.. and working with a trainer made it become magical. She wasn't the right trainer for me though, but she did give me support, which is crucial for confidence!

My advice to you... don't go beyond your comfort level. Make really small goals like "weave the cones" and "get on without my horse moving" and "do a circle at the corner" and "trot for 8 strides" etc. When you accomplish small goals.. you will feel much better. Then you can work on building on those small goals like "weave the cones and then do a half circle and go back on the rail" and "ride with quiet hands at the trot" and "do a small circle in the corner and circle again, but a circle taking up half of the arena" or "trot for 8 strides, walk for 8, half circle, trot for 10" and then you can build on THOSE and get even more complex. And before you know it, you'll be confident in everything you do. Just take small steps.

Find someone that can help you with confidence by supporting you and helping you "fix" bad moments. Like if your horse decides to get really really fast or spooks, someone can tell you "hey put more weight down into your seat and down your legs" or "keep your hands down" or "chin up!!" since it's hard to remember all of the minor details.

Best of luck :) It'll come back to you!!
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