Confidence....This is a topic that comes up with many of my students. Often I find it being the topic several times in one day. So what is confidence? We use the term so loosely that I think we sometimes forget what it really it. I usually hear "I'm not a confident rider." "I'm so unconfident." It's usually the riders who have the knowledge to be riding beyond their current level that I hear this from most. Confidence is defined as " the belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities." I think we often confuse confidence as fearless. Fearless is "without fear, bold, brave."
It is harder to convince people that they are capable of achieving their dreams than you could ever imagine! I wish my students could see the ability in themselves that I see in them.
I want all of you who say "I am not a confident rider" to realize that it is ok to be afraid sometimes. The confidence comes when you work to overcome that fear because you believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish it. Of course we may sometimes be afraid of what could happen, but we are confident and know we can achieve it. Being a professional trainer there have been many times I've been less than fearless. I'm not sure how many people will admit their fears, especially when it pertains to their career and lifestyle, however I want you to know you are not alone!
When I was younger, I used to ride around all over the planet bareback. As a professional horse trainer who primarily started young colts for the last 7 years, I realized that my riding had changed in many ways from my younger years. For the 2011 new year, my resolution was to ride bareback more often. Easy enough right?? Whenever I had the opportunity I would choose a horse in my riding lineup to ride bareback. It was usually a huge tank of a Haflinger named Sammy or a sassy little paint named Rae. Rae was the most fun and I did lots of bareback and bridleless riding with her. I did plenty of playing around at all gaits but was hoping to take it to a new level. Now living in Montana, I've been giving more lessons to riders and less training to horses so I've had fewer horses to choose from.
As many of you know, I've been waiting for the day to ride my stallion, Achilles. I've probably gotten a total of somewhere between 60 and 90 rides on him. Pretty broad span, but that tells you what our riding schedule has been like! I only ride him when I can find a spare minute to ride between lessons or while I'm snacking on my lunch!!! This is where my "big" idea comes in.... "Why don't I ride Achilles bareback???"
So those of you who've known me for a long time say "Achilles bareback???" And those of you who are just getting to know me, Achilles has always been a quick guy who has these quick turns that we used to joke about, saying he'd lose anybody riding him through those turns.... okay, so we may have been exaggerating a bit, but it goes to say he's pretty quick! Achilles is a guy who runs, naturally sits back, rolls over his hocks, and runs the other way. I started putting skid boots on him when I longed as I was worried about him scraping up his legs sliding through the coarse roundpen I used to work him in.
Back to my bareback sessions. I started off walking and trotting. My wonderful mother encouraged me to try a lope. We both have a great understanding of horses and felt he would do great, but here is my mother watching her daughter getting ready lope on a green horse bareback, a stallion never the less. It went great! He was as smooth as could be and we had a blast.
Several sessions later, Achilles was having a cranky day and refused to lope!!! My assistant and one of my students were hanging out watching Achilles in all of his stubborness! I was getting pretty exhausted of fighting him and decided to take one of my own lessons. "Passive Passenger" exercise..... here I come!!!! I do this exercise with every horse that comes into training, however I will be completely honest-this was my first time attempting it bareback. He picks up a lope and I'm happy that we've worked through the stubborness of the day. As we turn for the gate that leads to the aisle (that leads to the mares) I feel a faint flutter of butterflies in my stomach. For those who haven't done this exercise yet, I assure you: you will do it soon!!! This exercise restricts steering and for the most part stopping... I take my big breath and say "now or never". I was afraid that I might fall off. Afraid about what may happen once we got to the gate. Afraid of many things, but the feeling deep inside was more overpowering-I knew there was no question about if I could do it; I knew deep down that I could and that Achilles was a great horse and we were going to do amazing things together. That is my best description of confidence: overcoming the what-if's and replacing them with I can's.
I'm not saying confidence comes overnight. Usually it takes time. Time, practice, and desire. I love watching my assistant around the barn because she has the true horse passion like me. She is willing to put in the work to achive her horse dreams. I told her the other day, "If you want it, let it burn." Meaning don't give up. So many people give up when it's hard or scary. I'm not telling people to go out and take crazy risks, but if you want it bad enough, work that extra 10 minutes on your weakest area. If your working on your posting and feel you can't do one more lap, Let your muscles burn and do just one more. When you feel you are out of breat and can't keep up longing your resistant horse, Let your lungs burn and push to get that one correct step . Let your heart burn with passion for your beloved equine friend every day. Never give up and you can accomplish anything.
As for Achilles and me we've still been working on the "Passive Passenger" exercise. He is still too green to be bareback and to pick a nice soft circle and lope ever so nicely... For the time being we still head for the gate, run past, stop, roll over his hocks and take off the other way quick as can be. While I'd like him to get to the next level of this exercise, I am enjoying this stage to focus on me and continue building my confidence. After all.... If I can stay on a rollback like that bareback, what can't I do??? Next challenge: world peace! lol