Regaining Your Confidence
Most of us have fallen off our horses at one time or another. The question is how to regain your confidence after a wreck. It does not matter whether the accident was major or minor, a fall from a horse can be devastating, depending on the injuries incurred or the mental spotlight we assign to the fall; we can subconsciously find excuses not to ride again. There is a certain amount of fear in all of us, which is a good thing, for if we had no fear we would not understand the dangerous circumstances that can arise riding our horses. Fear is nature’s way of making sure we never forget that we are riding huge powerful animals that have their own will and can be unpredictable in certain situations.
The range of emotions you may be experiencing after an accident can vary. An example may be that you don’t feel comfortable going into that dreaded corner where you got thrown, or jumping a particular type of jump where your horse once refused and you kept going. It doesn’t matter what the scenario was; right now, it’s making you feel tense and overly anxious. The question is, how do you overcome this paralyzing fear, and get back to enjoying the time spent riding your horse?
Sometimes it’s a good idea to turn to professionals in this area for help I think all horse people should have a psychologist on speed dial for several reasons, (not all of which have to do with confidence issues...). I am not a psychologist, but over the years I have read some great advice and suggestions on how to deal with this problem:
First – You need to replay and examine what happened and why it happened. Ask yourself questions, the most important one being: what was I doing/thinking at the time? Was I paying attention to my surroundings; was I riding in the moment or was I thinking about the grocery list? Did I put the horse wrong at the jump; did I over-face the horse with something he could not do? Sometimes, I am sorry to say, people just lack common sense. If you have not ridden for a month, how about longeing the horse first; if you have never taken that risky jump because you thought it was too dangerous, why take it today? Etc… Once you have your answer, you can begin to think of ways to correct it next time. Avoiding putting yourself in the same situation that caused the wreck in the first place is a great place to start.
Second - Simply analyzing what happened might have a calming effect. Once you can think about the accident logically instead of emotionally, you are on your way to regaining the confidence you need to get back on the horse. This brings me to another aspect of the confidence issue. I have read that one of the worst things you can do is to deny your fears and get right back on in order to prove to everyone (or to yourself) how “brave” you are before you deal with the psychological situation. This may set you up for another injury and you could lose even more confidence. Remember, you don’t have to be superman; let common sense guide you.
Third – Before getting back in the saddle, make sure your injuries will allow you to control the horse. There is no sense riding if your balance is off or your injury is causing you pain.
Fourth – It is always a good idea to take it slow when you decide to ride again. If need be, go on the longe line for a few lessons. Jump some smaller jumps to get your confidence back. Retrace your riding steps to what they were before the accident - to where you were confident and having fun.
Fifth- If you know what caused the accident, then visualize yourself correcting your mistake. Run the correction through your mind repeatedly until you feel confident you won’t make the same mistakes again.
Sixth – There is such a thing as relaxation training; it’s a wonderful tool to get rid of the excess tension in your body. Simply by tensing each muscle group and then relaxing them you can be on your way to a state of relaxation. Remember, if you are tense, your horse can feel the tension. This may lead to both of you having less confidence in each other.
Finally, you must try to talk to yourself in a positive way and get into a good frame of mind. Negative thoughts, such as I can’t do this, I know I’m going to fall again etc… will only make you more tense and afraid of doing what you enjoy.
Regaining your confidence after an accident will depend on your situation. Your age, injuries, state of mind and even your experience level all combine to determine your individual goals for getting your confidence back. In addition, don’t forget your personality plays a part in the healing process too.
If all this seems too overwhelming for you and you know you really want to ride but just cannot seem to overcome your fears, perhaps you should seek a professional’s help. Many sports psychologists in the field will be able to help you get back to being your confident self again.
Until next time
Quote for Today
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.