If you ride horses, sooner or later there will be a day that you'll unceremoniously come off your horse. Fortunately, most falls don’t seriously hurt rider or horse allowing riders to walk away with nothing more than a slightly wounded pride and a sore behind. Here are 8 tips from women who succeeded in finding their confidence back after a scary experience.
Even when a fall doesn't physically hurt you, it may still leave a mental scar, making you tense and leaving you discouraged. Overcoming the negative experience can be challenging, especially when dealing with difficult horses and situations. Read on to learn what worked for these brave riders.
1. Take Your Time
Darla Green, a retired teacher and a long time lover of horses from Simpsonville, SC, had her share of falls, involving breaking numerous bones and dealing with long recoveries. Her last fall was in the spring when she broke her pelvis after her upper level dressage school horse spooked.
Darla’s sound advice; go slow, very, very slow. Just sit on your horses’ back for a few seconds, rubbing his neck, just connecting with him. Enjoy the moments and take in the beauty around you. Stretch to a minute of just sitting and breathing. Ask someone to lead you around at walk. Watch someone ride your horse safely. Find inspiration that makes you feel happy, like listening to this song. As a result Darla went from trembling at the thought of riding, to trotting bareback on the trails around her property with a smile on her face.
Eva Janssen from Eindhoven, The Netherlands agrees. Here is a video of one of her falls. Her advice: Take your time. For the first time just sit on a quiet horse and keep encouraging yourself to step outside your comfort zone.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
Women have a tendency to be their own worst critics, say experts. The most common display of this has got to be the self-deprecating thoughts that float around our head like “I suck at this. I can never get it. This is just impossible. It’s all my fault. What am I thinking.”
When your inner critic starts spewing its poison, just thank it for its point of view and ask it to stop talking. Instead, fill your mind with a positive mantra, something like ‘I got this. I can do this. I am safe. I am in full control’. This calms down your survival mind and empowers you to stay relaxed and confident.
3. Accept imperfection
Is your obsession with perfection keeping you discouraged? While perfectionism enhances the quality of my work, the problem arises when I take things too far. I set standards that are impossible to meet and then devalue work that doesn’t meet the impossible standards. It’s a toxic loop.
Begin to practice accepting imperfection and start acknowledging your effort, however minimal it is. Embrace the iterative processes over a longer time frame in the knowledge that everything you focus on grows, and so will your ability to relax in the saddle.
4. Find Good Resources
Gail Penland, a technical writer with Fluor in Greenville, SC, knows much about perseverance despite crippling fear. five years ago she developed a fear of riding after a bad experience, and trembled at the thought of driving to the barn, let alone riding her thoroughbred Beau. Yet her heart was determined to ride again, and she began connecting with horse women who were uplifting, inspiring and kind.
One of those women was Theresa Bagwell, an endurance rider with a heart of gold. Theresa supported Gail on her journey, encouraged her with kindness, while gently nudging her out of her comfort zone. Gail began walking on Theresa’s saintly 27 year old Arabian named Sheik, while Theresa cheered her on along the way. And with great results; a few weeks back Gail finally trotted a circle on her own horse Beau with a huge smile on her face.
5. Build Body Awareness
Fear is the perception of danger and your body always produces a stress response to fear. Stress can affect all aspects of a person. It can affect your body, how you feel and what you think about yourself and the world, and the things you do. While you can’t escape your stress reaction, you can begin to enhance your awareness of your stress level. Notice what you feel like, what your body is telling you, what you are telling yourself and see if this matches with a more stressed state of mind, or a confident state of mind.
If you are in a stressed state of mind, ask yourself what grade you'd give your stress level on a scale from a 1 to 10, with 1 being not stressed at all, 10 being very stressed. This gives you input on deciding whether today is suitable for taking on new challenges, or taking it slow.
6. Learn a trick to shift To Confidence
You want to be confident and feel confident, but what if you're starting with fear? True confidence isn't an overnight acquisition. It takes dedication to turn fear into fortune, but it can be done.
One successful method is to start identifying a time in your life where you had the confidence you lack today. Remember the story of that time in your life and describe it in detail. Be specific. What went well in that time? Why were you confident? How did it work out for you? Then identify three things that you did well then, that you could apply to your current situation and start building your self-confidence today.
7. Celebrate Success
When you’ve accomplished your first step, will you celebrate? By taking time to celebrate your success, no matter how big or small, you’ll build your confidence, providing you with encouragement to continue.
Your celebration doesn’t have to be a big deal; it just has to make you feel good and help you enjoy your accomplishment. Write yourself a congratulation letter after your first few seconds back on a horse. Buy that nice piece of jewelry you secretly wanted. Treat yourself to a piece of chocolate cake. Get a new saddle pad.
As long as it makes you happy and marks your progress, anything is suitable to help you congratulate yourself and move forward to overcoming fear.
8. Never, Ever Give Up
“Courage doesn't always roar, sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering 'I will try again tomorrow” says Mary Anne Radmacher. There will be a day when stepping out of your comfort zone feels like a trip to outer space. Give yourself permission to feel that way, it's OK.
If moving forward seems overwhelming, maybe you are trying too hard, too soon. Instead, identify a smaller step you can do today. Nothing outrageous, nothing crazy, just a quick, safe step that makes you feel safe and in control while still turning fear into confidence. Be an inspiration to others by refusing to give in to fear, and amaze yourself.
"You are braver than you believe,
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