This wasn’t exactly what you had in mind. You know you’re better than this. You give yourself a little pep talk.
“Come on, pull it together. You should be able to do this by now! What’s the point of all this work if you can’t get on and enjoy yourself?! Just get on with it!”
But it’s no good. Nerves. Anxiety. Lack of confidence. It visits riders in different ways. It might be that you just can’t get past the fear of something going wrong. Or maybe you are fine at home, but outside of your comfortable environment, things go pear shaped. It might even be that those tiny doubts aren’t obvious to those of us on the outside, but you know that there’s something getting in the way of you being the best rider that you can be.
So how do you push past it? How do you begin to flex the muscles of your mind so that you can begin to create positive results and experiences with your horse?
Essentially, being able to effectively manage your mindset and cultivate confidence in the saddle comes down to the ability to successfully manage your state. State is the combination of your psychological and physiological (so mind and body) condition, and is something that we manifest to embody our feelings. For example, if you were riding and felt nervous, at that moment, you are in a nervous state. The same thing can be said for confidence; at the moment when you feel as though you are overflowing with confidence, you are in a confident state.
Contrary to popular belief, how we feel at any moment in time is something we have total control over. It is completely possible for you to feel confident, joyful, successful right now in your riding, as long as you are aware of the various components that go into creating specific emotional responses at any given moment in time. Let’s explore this a bit further.
No matter whether you perceive a state to be positive or negative, feelings arise as a result of three main components coming into alignment:
- Primarily whether you are focusing your attention on what you want or what it is you are looking to avoid
- Your self talk
- Whether your internal dialogue and questioning is empowering or deflating
- Your physiology
- Whether the way you are using your body is supportive of a confident or disempowering mindset
Let’s take anxiety as an example and analyze it according to the model above. In order for me to feel anxious, my focus needs to be future paced; I need to be focusing on an event occurring at some point in the future and concurrently envisaging something that I fear, or an concerned about coming to fruition. This vivid imagining has quite an effect on the subconscious mind, which, unlike the conscious mind, does not have the ability to discern between what is real and imagined. If you see a scene play out with enough sensory detail, your subconscious mind registers that event as real, as though it was happening in the present moment, and as a consequence, you will experience a physical reaction as your body responds to the perceived threat.
For many of us, this will be familiar: increased heart rate, sweaty palms, a nervous stomach, hunched over posture, clamped hands, locked gaze. If I asked you to describe to me what an anxious rider might look like, we would all give very similar responses. How so? We all recognize that there is a very particular physiology that exists alongside anxiety.
How about our self-talk? How might we talk to ourselves when we are feeling anxious? Chances are we would be ruminating on our fears: “I can’t do this.” “I am way out of my league.” “Why am I putting myself through this?”
Anything sounding familiar? The beauty of the situation is that in the same way that we cultivate anxiety, we can also cultivate confidence. The ability to manage our emotional state is a skill; it’s just a matter of practicing new ways of being, of redirecting your focus, fine tuning your internal dialogue and using your body in a way that supports the direction that you want to go instead of hinders it.
With that in mind, I would like you to become curious of these three elements moving forward; if you have trouble using yourself as an example, bring to mind a rider you admire as use them as your muse. In order for you to feel confident right now, what is it that you would need to focus on? What is it that you are looking to create? What would be your ideal outcome?
How do you talk to yourself when you feel confident? What are the kinds of thing you might say if you believed you have what it takes to make it happen? Is there a catchphrase or mantra you can repeat that would consciously direct your self talk?
Let’s think about the physical now. If I were to ask you to describe how a confident rider looks in the saddle, how would you describe them? How could you use this information to influence your own levels of confidence on your next ride?
Cultivating confidence comes with consistently developing and inserting new patterns of behavior to replace those that are unwanted. Over time, the new pathways will become strengthened and it will become easier and easier to consciously direct your state to match your intention.
Happy riding! xx Jane
Jane Pike is an Equestrian Mental Skills Coach at www.confidentrider.online.