So while I am a competent rider, I will admit to not always being a confident rider. This became extremely apparent when I started working with Custard after I lost my mare.
Custard is a gentleman and has never done anything to actually harm me, but there has been several moments riding him that have resulted in a shakeup of my confidence level, and they all come down to a mismatch in our training – I have been trained to expect a conversation with my horse when riding him, and Custard had no idea how to do this.
The first time he had a freak out while I was riding him, I ended up freaking too, as there was nothing I felt I could do to bring him back to me and I felt I had lost all contact - including the brakes. My brain was firing with images of how we would both end up dead, impaled on a fence picket.
Despite a lot of work and Custard’s increasing ability to talk with his rider, it’s still a niggling memory that flares up any time that he has to work a little bit out of contact – like at the moment, when he is trying to coordinate lifting his forehand in trot with a rider (or trying to get out of engaging his core by attempting to trot with a rider).
It was actually during one of those moments, in the midst of my heart-in-the-mouth moment, that I actually REALLY noticed my reaction – the anxiety increase, the need to curl into the foetal position, the clamping down on the reigns – I’m sure my face would have grimaced too. Nothing that a competent rider should really be doing to your horse, don’t you agree?
That moment got me thinking. If my confidence can impact on my competence, inversely shouldn’t my competence affect my confidence?
In that actual moment, after a minute or 2 of deep breathing and an internal monologue that consisted of phrases like “You can ride in trot”, “He can only hold it for a few steps so he is unlikely to take off” and my internal bitch piping up with “It’s time to put your big girl knickers on!”, that I decided to stop letting fear control my riding competence.
Custard and I had our first trot together the other day. It wasn’t pretty – we were both awkward – but it was real progress for us both.
Let’s hear it for big girl knickers!!!