How to shed self-doubt and find more joy in riding

Horseback riding is an enjoyable activity – but it’s easy to get too caught up in what you’re doing wrong. Here’s how to boost your confidence in the saddle and take more joy in the experience.

After watching one of my students perform some successful trot-canter transitions, I asked her about her experience with the exercise. Almost immediately, she began listing all the things that she felt she had done wrong. It seemed to descend on her like a dark cloud, draining all the joy out of her. That’s when it dawned on me: her horse, Danny, had picked up on her negative demeanor – it was the reason he’d been so unmotivated to work in the arena. Not only was my student’s mood affecting her joy, it was affecting her horse’s performance.

The importance of positivity

I shared my impressions with the rider and encouraged her to look for the things that were working well. I also recommended that she praise not only her horse, but herself. Riding involves teamwork – if something works well, it’s because of the horse and the rider.

If you find yourself falling into the same trap of negativity and self-doubt, try following these tips:

  • During and after your ride, take mental notes of what goes well
  • Praise your horse and yourself consistently
  • Pay close attention to how happy these moments can make you. Allow yourself to feel the joy they bring. I call these moments “waves of joy” – look for them, feel into them. When you praise your horse, let this level of joy overflow into your voice.

Try journaling

At the end of your day (or ride), write down a moment that felt particularly special. It can be something simple like a smooth walk-halt transition, a connected instance during your grooming session, or a relaxed moment at home. When you make it a habit to write these down at night, you will become more aware of these moments throughout your day. This level of awareness will help you find more joy in your riding, and will allow you to develop a deeper connection with your equine companion.

No matter what stage you’re at on your riding journey, fostering a demeanor of positivity will bring more joy into your riding and leave less room for self-doubt and perfectionism.

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