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Several years ago I had a bad fall on a horse that I had owned for several years. He could always be a little unpredictable, but usually we could get through our rides. We were on a trail ride once though and he must have seen or heard something, but he zigged and I zagged straight to the ER with a broken arm. I ended up selling that horse, and I’ve taken some lessons since then, but I’ve struggled regaining my confidence to the point where I can actually commit and purchase a new horse. Do you have any advice on how to take that next step?

Horses Feel And Feed Off Your Fear

Tips To Remember:

  • Take It Slow.
  • Don’t Skip Steps.
  • Walk Before You Run.
  • Start With The Right Horse.
  • The round pen can change everything.

Thanks so much for that question, it’s one that can help a lot of people! Your fears and concerns are well founded and I think it’s much better to have a healthy respect for the inherent risks that go along with riding horses than to have a carefree, overly confident attitude. That being said, generally speaking if you don’t feel safe on a horse, you’re probably not. Whether it’s because you’re on a horse that doesn’t fit your skill level, or you just haven’t gained the confidence yet, horses feel that fear and feed off it. If you’re feeling tense, then you’re far more likely to have a negative experience than if you’re relaxed.


Having The Right Horse Is the Key

A big part of the equation is having a horse that helps you build your confidence. I tell people all the time that most horses are born with the disposition they’re going to have their whole lives. We can train any horse to do most anything, but the ones that love people and being handled will always be that way. I talk a lot about having a connection with your horse. That comes from ground work, round pen work (including Join-Up), and just becoming a partner with your horse.  Take a systematic approach to building your confidence. Be completely confident at each step before taking the next. First be comfortable on the ground, then in the round pen, be completely comfortable walking, then trotting, then cantering in the before you venture out to the arena. Then do the same things there. Only when you feel relaxed and comfortable in a safe controlled environment should you venture out in the open. Take incremental steps, ride on short trail rides with a friend that’s confident, as you’re more and more confident you can just keep building. If at any time during the process you feel uneasy, just take a step back, there’s no rush and safety is the most important thing! If you’re feeling like you’re not making progress, work with a trainer or give me a call and I can try and help you through the situation. Having an experienced rider ride your horse for you is also a good option to get another perspective on whether your horse is suitable for you. Most trainers want to blame the rider, but sometimes it is the horse!

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