Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Becoming A More Confident Rider

The bad news is that only you can make yourself a more confident rider. The good news is that you can make yourself into a more confident rider.

The catch is that as soon as I start setting out what one needs to become a more confident rider I know that the overwhelming majority of riders reading this will stop reading by the end of the next paragraph.

For those who are confident in their ability to learn and perform all it will take to become more confident is to gain experience in the saddle. That is what we mean when we say that for most people the best way to learn to ride is to ride, and ride, and ride.

For others, even those who love horses and want to feel confident in the saddle, experience dampens, but does not extinguish, riding anxiety.

And here is the simple truth, in order to become a more confident rider such people must become more confident in all aspects of their lives. Many live with full blown anxiety disorder. For others, life  is filled with  chronic fear and stress, without showing overt signs  of what are often referred to as panic attacks.

Adverse childhood experiences (If you do not know what this term means please see    It could lead to tremendous insight into one's own behavior and the behavior of loved ones) can make gaining confidence harder, but even high ACE scores do not insure a lifetime of fear and anxiety. Confidence can be gained one step at a time.

However, that first step must be followed by a second step. And a third..and eventually a journey of many miles. One must be willing to break down barriers and recognize that the wall of security that you have created by all of the "rules" that you have that define all of the things that you do not do are more of a confining cell than a protective wall. 

These rules do not show one's independence. Instead they simply codify the avoidance behaviors that give short term relief by creating a world of shrunken challenges, shrunken opportunities, and extraordinarily shrunken happiness.

In order to become a more confident rider  one must break the chains that continue to restrict life opportunities. Every time one succeeds outside of one's comfort zone that comfort zone grows in size. So the first step is to break one's self imposed rules. 

Simply put, each and every day do something that you do not "want" to do. Start with something truly simple. The instant you wake up jump out of bed and get moving. Every day eat a bit of a food that you never eat, because you have "always hated ..." You don't have to eat a case of sardines for breakfast, but you can eat one. If you have not changed your hairstyle in years--change it now. Pleasantly greet the most unpleasant person you know when you see him each day. Begin to exercise and exercise until you simply cannot do another rep..and then do that rep. Challenge your phobias. If one fears height then climb--does not matter how far one climbs as long as one climbs high enough so that it is extremely difficult to tolerate--then climb one more inch.  Allow yourself to be hungry but postpone eating for a few hours. Take very cold showers. 

Ignore personal comfort and you will find yourself much more comfortable. Recognize every success. Think it over. Understand that you did things that you did not think you could do. Understand what that means. It means that you are crawling out of that jail cell that you spent so many years building. 

If it sounds like I am suggesting that eating octopus and hog chittlins, going rock climbing and wrapping up the week by expressing sincere but unpopular suggestions at a staff meeting at work will make you a better rider....

...that is exactly what I am saying--provided that you build on those challenges, and look for opportunities to prove yourself to yourself on a daily basis.

Of course, the ultimate practice that will reduce riding anxiety is to deeply study Greco-Roman Stoicism, but I know that you would rather eat hog chittlins than do that.

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