Tag Archives: confidence

“Bullet Proof – A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring”

With just a few days away until the first horseshow of the season, I know my students are starting to get anxious and excited about getting into the horseshow ring! Sure, ribbons are great and it’s an amazing feeling when you end your show day on a positive note; however, in order to be successful, you need more than just the right horse or the right show attire. You need to be confident. We prepare all winter for the upcoming season: jumping courses, practicing lead changes, etc. but when show day comes, and the nerves set in…well, it sometimes seems like we may not be as prepared as we thought.

I came across an excellent article in the May 2017 issue of Horse Sport Magazine written by registered psychologist, April Clay which gives insight into how to BE confident and how to make your show experience the best it can be:

Bullet Proof
A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring

“1. Understand this: Confidence is more than a feeling
When confidence is approached as a feeling, the way to change seems to be through willpower. You tell yourself to feel better, to buck up, to believe. It just doesn’t work. Your confidence is a set of beliefs you possess about your abilities; it is knowledge gained through experience. The feeling good part is simply a by-product of this new knowledge. Ask yourself what experiences you need to create for yourself in order to become a skilled rider. What kind of goals are you reaching for? Don’t get too hung up on feeling good; figure out ways to be good. Confidence is not a feeling, it is a “knowing” and the good news is you can grow your knowing!

2. Get ready for waves
Confidence is naturally variable. Confidence can be shaken. Even the most elite riders sometimes suffer doubt. This can come on the heels of an accident, or while trying to extend yourself to your next plateau of competence. If you are moving up a division, of course you will experience some doubt. If you are practicing more risk-taking, you will not feel a sense of certainty.
All doubt tells us is that something needs attending to. It sends a message that you are responsible for decoding. If you treat doubt as nothing more than an unpleasant feeling you have to avoid, then you are missing something – an opportunity to grow.

3. Talk to yourself
The tough part about negative thinking? We come by it naturally. It is part of our survival mechanism to look for potential problems. It’s called the “negativity bias” and unfortunately speaks to the way our brain is wired.
Sometimes you have to recognize how the negativity is trying to serve you, and look for a different way to get the same service! For example, “look out for that jump, your horse hates water” is your mind trying to warn you. Say ‘thank you for the warning,’ but turn your thinking into a solution: “stay straight, horse in front of leg, that’s how I ride to water.” Confident riders make sure their self-talk stays directive and productive. On the other hand, self-talk should not be so over-the-top gooey positive that it’s unrealistic. What you choose to say to yourself must be something you actually find believable. Otherwise you will activate that devil on your shoulder; you know, the one that wants to argue with you about why you’re oh so wrong. Instead of “I am the best rider in this class” try saying “I know I am prepared.”

4. Make a plan
The business of changing what you know about yourself as a rider entails action or experience. After an uncomfortable incident you can’t just pat yourself on the back and tell yourself to feel better. You need to lead yourself through the experience in a way that assures you that you can handle that situation and come up with a plan of coping and problem-solving. Find a way to work through the challenge and you will come out the other end a much stronger person.
A rider who becomes uncomfortable when asked to ride at faster speeds and take risks in a jump-off needs to define a path to that goal. What skills are needed? How might simulations of jump-offs be set up in order to provide greater rehearsal opportunities? Breaking the job down and knowing how it might be accomplished sets the task and the rider up for success. Experiencing the development of specific skills brings confidence in those skills in that setting. A confident rider is a good student of their sport; they know how to study.

5. Train for Adversity
You say you want to increase your confidence? Be careful what you wish for. Confidence-building may not always arise from pleasant circumstances. To be mentally tough, you have to learn how to have ‘good bad days.’ Every time something doesn’t go quite right in your training, this opportunity presents itself. You can either allow yourself to opt out – “I just don’t feel quite right today, better quit while I’m ahead”– or you can grab onto it and reap the rewards: “Sure, I don’t feel great today, but I am going to practice dealing with it because who knows how I might feel before my next performance.”
Janet, an amateur jumper rider, and her trainer decided to make sure they utilized the adverse circumstances life normally presents. Each time a challenging moment presented itself, one of them would say “that sucks, buckle up!” and then together they would devise a clear plan to deal with the challenge. Using humour helped Janet. “I liked the idea of our joint silly key phrase. It made tough times seem a little lighter and more like a normal thing to deal with instead of a huge deal, and the planning made it fixable and learnable. I never thought I could actually be tougher, but I think I am!”

6. Abandon Perfection
One of the greatest thieves of sport self-esteem is the habit of clinging stubbornly to the idea of perfection. Some people believe if they are not reaching for perfection, their goals are not high enough. The truth is, perfection is not a high goal, it’s an impossible one. There is no perfect performance – especially in horse sport, where your teammate comes supplied with their own set of variables. Horses can have off days, injuries, and most certainly a changing inner nature which makes each ride a unique conversation.
Accept that each performance you give will be different, and your job is to create the best you can with what you have on that day. Aim for excellence in your skills and learning to trust your instincts. This you can control.

7. Define your Brand
What is your confidence “brand”? Every athlete has an overall sense of confidence about their ability to perform in their sport, but there will always be strengths and weaknesses in that profile. That’s normal. You can, however, bolster your overall confidence by choosing an area of specialty. In other words, choose a skill that will really define you and go for it! Become known for possessing an area of expertise. Ian Millar, for example, is known for having a keen sense of direction and planning. George Morris is associated with discipline and consistency.
Having and developing a self-chosen superpower can help you get in touch with the rest of your confidence, especially in a pinch. For example: become an expert course walker, study equine body language, explore the history of equitation. Have fun creating your brand!”

I hope that by sharing this article with all of you, that perhaps your confidence, whether in the riding ring at home or at a horseshow, can get a little boost!

Until next time,
Robyn

April Clay is a Registered Psychologist with an independent practice located in Calgary, Alberta. Although she works with all kinds of athletes in her practice, April especially enjoys assisting equestrian athletes with their mental goals. She is a qualified member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and she is a regular contributor to numerous publications both locally and abroad. You can visit her main site at www.bodymindmotion.com and the online course site at www.outofyourmindcourses.com

Horses, riding and finding that barn connection – a mother’s perspective

Over the years, I have had the joy of teaching many riders from a very young age, until they reach university. Many of them will return to visit during the summer months or will come back to ride once they are finished school. Just over a year ago, I met Alex. She wasn’t a beginner rider, nor was she the “typical” new Foxwood young rider. She was finishing up high school but wanted to get back into riding not only because she missed being around the horses but she wanted to learn how to jump. Given that she already had some riding knowledge, it was only a matter of a few lessons before she was on her way! Alex is very lucky in that her parents are very supportive of her riding and recently, her mom, Lisa, sent me a lovely note to share with me how important riding, horses and Foxwood are to her daughter:

“When I was young, I always loved to go and visit my cousins who owned horses, but I was never able to convince my parents to buy me a horse or pony. It was with great delight then, for me, that when my daughter, Alex was very young, I discovered that she also had a love for horses. My first memory is of a trip to the Kinmount Fair on Labour Day weekend near our cottage when Alex was maybe four or five. She pulled her Dad and me towards the section of the fairgrounds where all of the riders and horses were parked with their trailers getting ready for their shows. The first owner we spoke to had Clydesdales and Alex pulled us closer so that she could touch them, but then when we tried to get her to stand beside the horse to take a picture, she realized just how big he was and she got nervous. We never did get a picture, but the owner who had won several ribbons, gave Alex a first prize ribbon to hang on her wall at home. That clinched it. From that day on, her love and draw to horses was sealed. She began riding later that year or the next at a farm on our cottage road.

Over the years, we took her to various farms including riding with my cousin Iris in Sharon and later on out in Thornton where another friend rode. At this farm, Alex also belonged to the 4H club, but the owner did not teach jumping and after three years, we stopped going. Alex however did not stop thinking about horses and riding so when her friend Megan told her she was riding at Foxwood Farms, Alex went with her to check it out.

Soon after, Alex begged us to start riding again and I went to meet Robyn. We felt immediately at home being back at a barn, but it was more than that. Robyn and Alex had a connection through their love of horses and within a few months, Alex told us Robyn had asked her to be Head Camp Counsellor for that summer. Alex was already working as a lifeguard and swim instructor and had her first aid certification, so adding her love of horses to the mix, it was a perfect fit for her and we were overjoyed.

It’s hard to believe it has only been just over a year since Alex joined the Foxwood Family. It feels like Alex has found her second home and because Robyn is there, she will go to the farm whenever she gets a chance, but we don’t mind. We are happy that Alex has a place to do what she has always loved. Alex has grown her riding skills quite quickly and will be a member of the Foxwood Show team this year. Jumping and simply being at Foxwood has given her the confirmation that whatever she does for her future career, it will be with horses.

Foxwood is a place where not only can our children learn about and be around horses, it is also a place where they feel like they belong. We are thankful that Alex has found her way to the Foxwood Family. Thank you Robyn for being Foxwood!”
Lisa Paul

I’m so excited for Alex to show with our Foxwood show team this season! She has worked very hard to improve her riding skills and she has developed a great partnership with Maggie, the horse she will be showing. As to her future adventures, I know that whatever she does, she will be a success! (and maybe if she gets into vet school, one day, she’ll come back to Foxwood to be our vet;)

Until next time,
Robyn

Alex and her mom, Lisa, riding Fjord horses in Denmark

Alex in the fall of 2016 at Foxwood with Neo

Winter riding lessons at Foxwood

How to have happy teens? Let them horseback ride the stress away

Horseback riding. By definition, is the sport or activity of riding horses; however, for those of us who ride, we know that it is far more than just that. We all lead busy lives and barn time is time away from work, home and school stress – which, for teenagers, is an especially difficult time in life.

Who doesn’t remember the challenges that we faced in our teen years, whether it was getting good grades at school, being part of a socially accepted peer group, finding the right part time job or just getting along with our families. Today, teenagers face far more pressure than ever before. University admissions are increasingly competitive, which means students are constantly striving to earn top marks in order to get into their university of choice. And then, there is the stress of social media. Being perfect. All the time. Because everything is posted whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. and everybody sees it. It’s an acceptance that many of us didn’t have to deal with but unfortunately, our children (and my students) do.

Stress causes many physical and emotional side effects such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders and even suicide. So, how do WE – as parents/adults – help our teens reduce their stress levels? Studies have been shown that exercise is one of the best ways AND combined with the love of an animal, it’s a perfect match! I teach many teenagers – in fact, they currently make up the largest number of my riding students. Yes, they have fun when they are here, taking “selfies” with their horses as they groom, snap chatting silly moments in the barn BUT…once they enter the barn, taking on the responsibility of caring for their horse and then concentrating on riding, I can see the stress they may walk in with, disappear.

One of my adult students came across this article written by Ella Innes which gives insight into how horseback riding can help with teen stress:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2613211/Spending-time-horses-make-teenagers-stressed-study-reveals.html

So, if horseback riding CAN and DOES relieve the stress of your teen, why not let them give it a try? Who knows, they just might start putting in as much effort into cleaning their room as they do sweeping the barn or grooming their horse;)

Until next time,
Robyn