Getting back your confidence

By Jenny Richardson, BHSAI

Jenny Richardson

For horse riders, losing confidence when it comes to riding can be quite significant.

One of the many problems Sport Psychologists diagnose is ‘paralysis by analysis’, whereby the rider thinks too much about what they want to achieve from a task, to the detriment of their riding performance

Something as simple as booking extra riding lessons or a confidence boosting training break can often remedy the situation. Concentrating on your core riding skills should start building confidence.

A confidence problem, whether it is linked to a specific event, or something that has just grown out of nowhere, is not going to go away over night. Ignoring it will only let it get worse, and riding will become something to fear rather than an enjoyable experience. Getting the right help is the first step to reforming confidence – It can be a lot of hard work, but with goal setting, and small steps, your confidence on your horse or pony will come on in leaps and bounds.

Top tips-

Realise you are not alone – Admitting you need help for your problem, means you are already on the road to solving it. Confidence problems, no matter how small or large they seem, are more common than most people think.

Are you surrounded by positive or negative people? – Having a good support network is really important. You need to find a yard that is right for you and your horse or pony, and where you and your equine are surrounded by positive people.


Find an instructor that suits you – Having an instructor who understands your goals and how you want to achieve them can help your riding confidence enormously – it is important to make sure you are on the same wavelength. Don’t feel you should have loyalties for an instructor – what was right for you a few years ago might not be now.

Recognise your horse or pony’s ability – It is easy to blame your horse when things go wrong, but take into account their situation too. If you know they misbehave riding out on a windy day, don’t attempt to take them out in this situation until you are confident you can deal with the way they might behave.


Recognise your own ability – Don’t limit yourself by underestimating your riding skills, but at the same time be realistic. As you get older, your priorities change. What you were once able to do when you had endless time and energy might not still be as easy with children or a busy job, for example. The key is to recognise this, and that it is ok to lower your expectations of yourself.

Have the right mixture of challenge and ability – It doesn’t matter what riding ability you are, as long as you match it to what you want to achieve. If you’re completely unrealistic and try and tackle jumps that are too ambitious, you will end up being nervous of jumping, but similarly, if you limit yourself, you’ll end up bored.

Set yourself goals – This will give you something to aim for along the way. Even if it is something really small, such as ‘Today I want to work on my canter transitions without constantly thinking that my horse or pony is going to rush off’.


Celebrate – When you achieve your goals, celebrate them.

Even if it is something as little as phoning a friend to tell them, or opening some chocolate, it’s a reward and makes you feel like what you are doing is worthwhile.

Investigate Castle Leslie Estate’s fabulous ‘Get Back Your Confidence’ riding trip.

XC Jumping

Our dedicated team of experts, which includes myself, is here to help guests at the riding centre get back into the saddle.

This five day package includes three hours’ of daily lessons, culminating in a two hour ride around the estate – by the end of the break, you will feel ready to tackle your regular riding again with confidence!

Guests can choose the type of lessons they want, based on their individual riding foes and limitations, from practice on our mechanical horse, to lunge lessons, flatwork and even jumping.

This is also ideal for riders returning to riding, who simply feel a little rusty and out of practice. Your five night stay includes a hearty Irish breakfast each morning and a two course meal in Conor’s Bar at The Lodge each evening.





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