Equestrian Dreams: How to Assess Your Riding Confidence

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equus magazine

It’s funny how your dream pops up at unexpected places and times. This morning, I was at court, perusing the magazine rack while waiting for my case to be called. My dream of becoming an accomplished equestrian was not anywhere in the forefront of my mind.

Then, I spied it – the latest issue of Equus (I don’t know who the other rider is at the juvenile court complex but I’d like to thank them for putting their Equus out when they’re done!). The bottom headline on the cover leaped out at me, After a Fall; Rebuild Your Confidence. While I haven’t had a specific fall, Lord knows my riding confidence is badly sagging.

The author, Susan E. Harris, talks about the FAT (Fear – Anxiety – Tension) cycle. I’m definitely stuck in that and it is severely affecting my riding.

She also gives at riding Confidence Scale:

5 = I’m feeling great – let’s go faster

4 = I’m feeling pretty good

3 = I’m OK (neutral)

2 = I’m apprehensive

1 = I’m about to cry – I want to get off.

I’ll admit that lately I hover between 1 and 2. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ having trouble getting my riding confidence straightened out to be able to ride effectively. Nikki and I do fine at the walk; if I ask for a trot, I get irritated little bucking in response.

The article in Equus had lots of good ideas for breaking the FAT cycle:

  • make sure you’re riding the right horse
  • make sure you’re working with the right trainer
  • go back to the basics
  • give yourself time
  • don’t expect too much immediately

I know all of those. But doing is so much harder than knowing – right?

Thursday evening, my husband and I are headed to LaCanada for a look at our Rose Parade float before we show up on Dec. 20 and actually have to tell people how to decorate it. I’m looking forward to it, especially our visit with “The Candy Man” on Friday afternoon. So, Rose Parade is humming along and I can’t figure out how to get out of my seemingly everlasting riding confidence funk.

How do you assess your dream confidence, and can it be applied to riding?

‘Til next week.


Danelle is a successful attorney who left 8 Women Dream in March of 2010 and is still working on her dream is to become an accomplished equestrian

  • Rachel

    “Having kids changes our perception of risk too.”

    Ain’t it the truth.

  • The horse probably gets that you feel this way. Animals are amazing like that.

    I think it is natural not wanting to get hurt when you have children.

  • Veronica

    I love your passion for horses, your passion for float, you have such a explosive personality, you inspire me.

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    And that horse of yours is damn beautiful!

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    I think it is all a part of the process.

    Sometimes a person starts out thinking they want to be a famous singer, then they spend time on the road and decide they don’t like it, while noticing what they really enjoy is teaching it, or writing it, or playing for family and friends and so the dream changes.

    Having kids changes our perception of risk too. Suddenly we feel responsible for everything and don’t want to risk anything that would prevent us from going to work, taking care of them, or worse.

    Remember I told you how crazy I was for flying – crazy nuts for it, until I started traveling for work after 9/11 many states away from a 3 year old son. I HATED FLYING and for the first time, it really bothered me.

    Probably after my son is off on his own and enjoying his life, I will go back to traveling and my old love of flying.

    We need to have breakfast ot lunch.


  • Hey Rachel, I love the dancing analogy and (as a fellow dancer! ;) can totally relate… Now I am for the most part able to just focus on the JOY and fun when I go dancing but there were years when I would constantly compare my current skill level with where I wanted to be, making it harder to just relax and enjoy the moment.

    Totally makes sense that you would take a break from classes and just go do some fun dancing! (And like you said since people asked ;) well how could you turn them down?).

    Danelle, is there perhaps somewhere you could go for a Sat. afternoon, with your family, and ride a horse other than Nikki, or all go ride “as a family” in a scenic location somewhere, just to see how it feels to do it for fun again, without any pressure? Sometimes putting lots of pressure on ourselves about where we want to be saps an activity of the joy.

    What did you love about riding as a girl? What can you do now to capture that feeling?

    Maybe it even means *not* riding for a bit and just giving your horse lots of TLC.

    I’d check your gut on what you could do to make it fun again… find the passion and the joy. That may mean taking the pressure off yourself to be “the best” for a while and just return to what you loved about riding as a kid.

    Good luck!!! :-)

  • Rachel

    “But doing is so much harder than knowing, isn’t it?”

    Yes, it is.

    I think sometimes we get so caught up in improving a skill, that we forget why we wanted to do it in the first place. If you dream of being an accomplished equestrian, I’m thinking it’s because you love riding. Sometimes it can help if we take a break from thinking, “I have to get better”, and just go do whatever it is we love for the joy of it. That isn’t, in general, the way to improve skill, but I do think it can do a lot for our confidence.

    I’ve been in a bit of a funk with my dancing, lately. I’ve decided to skip a few classes, and just do the fun part. The last time I went to a dance, I didn’t even feel like dancing. I just thought I’d listen to the music, and watch the dancers. But people asked me (too bad Nikki can’t do that!), and I ended up dancing, and enjoying the dances, too. I’ve spent so much time looking at where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do, but it took relaxing and enjoying to catch an appreciation of what I actually can do. I’m not ready to face the classes again yet, but I was able to realize that I can enjoy moving with a partner at the level I’m at, and that my skill really has come further than I’d realized while focusing on what I could not yet do.

  • Kim, the traveler

    I wish I had some advice, but I can’t get out of my funk either. And I don’t even know what my funk is;) Have fun in LaCanada! It sounds like it makes you happy.