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Confidence Issues

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    Confidence Issues

    So I first off am unaware if this is in the wrong place but, who knows. To start before any advice giving is given, I love my trainer. I also love my horse. I love the program we're both in, but the only thing I'm really not in love with is myself.

    I have jumped, shown, done eventing, done crazy things that I never imagined doing as a kid. I am not that far from still being a kid, I'm not far out of my junior years and never showed anywhere important or fancy. Now I own a baby, he's six years old and absolutely a dream to own and never thought I'd own a horse as nice as he is. However, I was riding far more broke (in many senses....) horses before who I didn't love or even truly like but they got me around a course safely so I was happy. I went to try and bought my current horse, and luckily for me he went along with my long eye and jumped for me no matter where and was perfect.

    So I am aware of my long eye, so far we have done everything and fixed him to not leave long. I get frustrated, and frustrated fast b/c we can't seem to do simple things (more correctly I, I repeat I cannot do simple things) like go around the ring on the rail without him causing some huge issue about the world ending, maybe it's the warmblood in him or the irish in me.

    There is a background, which leads to why I am posting this. I am nervous as all get up, I have shown before and never been nervous ever. Showed this past summer on my current horse and I can jump a decent size course at home, relaxed and with a flop in my rein like a dream hunter. Can I nail all the spots every single time, no I'm not perfect and neither is he. But we can survive a good sized course at home, we get on a trailer and travel to the local shows and we get off the trailer, take our time never once rushed. I can get on, and start to feel this pit in my stomach.

    Pull my stirrups down, warm-up and feel pretty good, the same feeling you have during a good lesson. Then I get this utter chaos going in my brain the moment I walk in to do a warm-up course with other horses in the ring, it could be one horse or twenty it's the same feeling.

    I can't use words to describe it as nervous isn't even the feeling, but my body seems to become empty and all strength drained. What was a good lower leg that has worked every other time in my life, fails me. My knees seem to gain their strength, my elbows seem to be want to break my ribs they're so tight, and my hands get in this spot where they just brace and I suddenly find myself in that position before, after, over a fence.

    I know, it doesn't get better unless you show and boy do I want to show, but does ANYBODY and I mean ANYBODY have any little trick before going in. I need any advice before I start my own show season as I want to move up and I want my horse to become the adult hunter that I know he is and has proven, it's just getting past my hatrid for me.

    Because I then blame him for being bad or hot, which he is not when I am relaxed, and then I sit for a bit after having a bad and not fun day and then realize "Not his fault, I just suck and I'm making this a shitty experience for him. And me. And I'm embarassing my trainer."

    So again I plea, anyone got anything?

    Not sure if this is helpful. Please know that everyone goes through crises of confidence at times. I do notice that you many times refer to "decent size courses" as if the size of the jump determines the quality of yourself and your horse. I would suggest going down in size in order to gain your confidence. There is no shame in being "pre-children or pre-adult." I know someone who showed and was in the high ribbons in Harrisburg last year, had a bad fall and lost her confidence. Now she is doing 2"6' and she and her horse are learning to trust each other again. No shame. It is all for fun, anyway. Remember that always.


      Original Poster

      Well by decent size courses, for me it's 2' 6" or so at home and then we show a lot lower than that away from home.

      Part of my biggest issue is striding on a proper horse. The horses I all rode before were the MASTERS of adding in a line, whereas my current horse is the master of the A circuit lines. His stride is big. I suppose my cause of fear was trying horses about 5 years ago I got on one horse, trotted around, picked up the canter and the horse took off, grabbed the bit and just absolutely ran was only able to stop when the owner literally ran out in front of the horse and threw up her hands causing this horse to come to a slidding stop. Didn't fall off but have been nervous of the "go button" on a horse.

      So I suppose my fear stems from I know I have to go forward before the fence, after the fence, inbetween fences, I know all of that but almost feel sometimes I am going too fast when I am not.


        It sounds like you need to figure out this horses rhythm when he is on a normal 12' stride. I would figure that out cantering poles on the ground. Once you know what it feels like different people have different ways to reset the step. I like to post a few canter strides at the end of the ring just so I know where I am with stride length. Other people I know choose a song like row, row, row your boat or just count 1,2,1,2,1,2. Horses generally build as you go around the course so where you may have to close your leg up the first line you may have to whoa a little in the last line. Horses also come faster towards the ingate than away. It's just getting in the groove you need, don't beat yourself up.

        If you want to do the steps then it's all about starting with the right canter and staying there. All too often amateurs get suckered into doing the dinky little canter to the first single and then they are behind the pace. Hunter rounds should be even paced from start to finish. If you miss deep going into a line then you will likely have to follow or continue up that line to do the steps or just relax and add. You'll be out of the ribbons probably then but maybe you'll have had a pleasant show ride and it sounds like you just need some of those.

        As far as your approach to the jumps I still love the old adage... Let the jump come to you. You don't need to do anything until you see where you are and with little jumps you really don't have to make a big move EVER. If you feel like you do it's the wrong decision so just settle your mind and be patient.

        I have two new horses that I'll be starting in the 2'6" hunters and I'm nervous as all get out because I simply don't know them that well. Schooling areas can be chaotic and nerve-wracking so take your time and try to do just a few warm up jumps. It's so much nicer in the show ring than warming up.
        You don't scare me. I ride a MARE!


          I agree with equisusan - the schooling areas are the WORST!! I refuse to go in them. Try to school the day before the show starts if you can. If not, so as little as needed in the warm up ring. The pole cantering is also a great idea. Practice counting out loud at home - it will help you learn your horse's stride. Also be PATIENT - remember it takes time to build a rapport with your horse. You are doing the right thing by seeking guidance and admitting your concerns. I don't know your barn situation - could your trainer have practice shows at home? When I was at a lesson barn they had mock horse shows and brought in an outside judge who was happy to give feedback. It all helped with the process. Best of luck to you - I know you will overcome this!!


            Are you riding with the same striding/forwardness at home as you need to have at the show? If not I would work on that with trainer, even just over poles on the ground to start. Also opening/closing the step to get one more or one fewer stride in the line. Then bring the jumps up.

            I feel like when I have the right, consistent canter the distances just come. Unfortunately I am nowhere near perfect so that feeling is still rare and I understand having fear on a big-strided horse. I prefer a slight push ride and can feel out of control (even though it isn't) on something that is just moving forward reasonably.


              Original Poster

              The biggest issue is my horse is extremely amateur friendly (IE, drop reins he'll still jump, drop a stirrup he'll still jump, grab his neck b/c I messed up he will still jump, I doubt the fence and pull, he gives me the polite and slow stop or the jump like "come on lady we've done this before"). He is my babysitter and I am BLESSED to have him and have what he is in the package and form of a 6 year old (sometimes the mind of a 3 year old). He has had some minor incidents in schooling arenas. Pony ran up his butt once and scared him, put the fear of god not only in him but me. I believe the warm-up arena is actually all of my fear and not completely him. I KNOW it feeds straight to him.

              He also has the slight issue of horses coming at him to pass them, he isn't bad or anything but we took him to a big show to warm-up and etc and be a horse and he would just side pass like "Here, in case you can't steer I'll move out of your way" which I know is the 3 year old horse inside his 6 year old brain speaking out.

              My trainer helps me by teaching my tactful things, things to relax me which automatically shows in his face he's like "There's my gal!". I defidently know the canter being so big is still such an adjustment, I was able to ride this horse too before I bought him with no problems. Rode him and we went around like a perfect pair, got him and he'd had some time off and I couldn't even canter him for a stride without being scared. We have come HUGE leaps and bounds, I do love him.

              Edit to poster above: I haven't shown all winter, but during the summer we'd show at shows with arenas similar almost never smaller than what we had. He and I had a problem of landing off one fence and gunning it to the next becasue I would punt him at fence one, so we did a lot of just ground pole work of cantering, sinking weight down without the hands to a trot or walk and then cantering off over the second pole. He now almost rarely gets a long spot unless the stupid in my comes out and says " No we really need to leave from WAY out here!" I can sense when he rolls his eyes like "No, there's defidently a stride left"


                Mine are very amateur friendly too. They definitely have a sense of humor when I'm nervous. I think you've just got to go in and do it. If it's really bad then a little Xanax wouldn't hurt either just to take the edge off so you can ride instead of freeze in fear. It's not something I would recommend long term and I'm not a doctor but there are a fair number of amateurs cantering around with it in their bloodstream to keep the hamsters from running amuck in their minds. Very best of luck.... sounds like you have a sweet horse.
                You don't scare me. I ride a MARE!


                  Original Poster

                  That's exactly a word to describe it I freeze, if I could ride the way I can at home with the forward pace and the small loop in my reins I could be competitive I do believe. I just can be in the warm-up flatting perfectly fine and then there is the warm-up ring with a number of people around and watching which is where my body starts to fail me, and then in the actual show ring along I practically flat line. Thank god he hasn't gotten worse at shows, just maintained the "can you get over this already?" My trainer never tells me I do bad or anything to make me feel like it was as bad as I feared, she's always "Next time. You just gotta keep showing or else it doesn't get better." Cause I want to show, and we've talked about me not showing I could just have someone else show him for me but I want to show so it's a matter of getting past this block that I have.


                    You will get past it. Meditation helps. You could speak to a sports psychologist. I personally think it's just a matter of doing it. I've been getting better every day I go in and just try to function in the crazy warm up ring. Tomorrow will be my first day showing my two new horses and I know I'll be nervous but the jumps are small and my horses are sweet like yours. I don't expect it to be great tomorrow but it will be another step forward. I often tighten up on the reins when I'm nervous like that is somehow going to make me safer. Nobody ever stayed on a horse by hanging onto the reins. My new mantra to myself is let the weight sink into your heels to feel safe and push your hands forward to loosen the reins. Trust your horse and let your little mistakes go as you make them.
                    You don't scare me. I ride a MARE!


                      I think something else may be going on here, as well. First of all-your trainer is absolutely correct to just keep showing. Ideally, you would go to a 2 week show and literally enter all the 2' or 2'6" classes on the first day-Tuesday or Wednesday. Usually a more chill vibe and almost all professionals. This plan will cost money but might be worth it. You will go in the ring and stay there for a while-not ridiculously long but long enough for maybe an extra circle or two. Maybe do this for 2 days. Take a day off, hack in the warm up for a while on your off day( note that many horses have issues with on coming traffic-you need to be proactive to avoid this at all costs and accept this is how he is). Then you can enter your division on the weekend, warm-ups included. Repeat the following week. It sounds like a lot of classes, but it's not, especially at that height. Hand graze by the ring, hand walk a lot, just hang out. It will help you, I promise.
                      The other issue I think going on here is your ego-this is not an attack!just read-you are very self-deprecating, I'm the same way. I think you may be placing too much value on how you ride in the ring with what kind of rider you are. I know this sounds zany, but I struggle with this. If I made a mistake in the ring, I took it so personally, and was frustrated beyond belief, because I know I can ride better. It ended up making showing not super fun for me. When my trainer finally convinced me to let it go-my performance in the ring in not a judgement on my character-i have thoroughly enjoyed showing! It sounds insane, but it's true...the brain is full of complexities! Your reaction to your horse that you love, you mentioned you got mad at him, etc., is similar to my reactions. That's what tipped me off. I could be way off base here-in which case.......never mind!!lol!
                      Good luck-you are most definitely not alone! Welcome to the amateur ranks!!lol!


                        Try and let go of the horse emotionally. The reason you rode well before was you had no skin in the game- you didn't own the horse. So you did not get your emotions and self esteem tangled in how it does in the ring, you didn't care on the same level as with the one you own.

                        Think you are injecting too much of yourself into what the horse is doing, as if he was your child and was almost an extension of yourself. Had a few friends who did this, they got some counseling and learned not to be defined by show performances and to appreciate their horses for what they were, not as a spouse, child or part of themselves.

                        Hope that makes sense, it was OK to make mistakes when it was not your horse so you didn't get anxious and compound them. If you can go back to not being anxious and so personally involved in each mistake, you can ride through them as you used to,

                        Can you get some Pro rides at home and at shows while you lesson and maybe show a Steady Eddy type? That should help the confidence you lost when that knothead bolted with you, it's OK to admit that was a setback, scares the hell out if me just reading about it,

                        And see a sports psychologist.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                          Original Poster

                          To Victorious - My trainer says the traffic issue is mostly me, that if I just ride him like nothing bad is gonna happen and not expect it like he does, then he's fine. Which he is that type of horse 100%, if you act like nothing is gonna go wrong he just will prick and ear towards whatever he wants to be scared of and then do nothing but focus on you.

                          And I in no way take your second paragraph in offense, part of my big issue is beore crossing the line that is considered being in or out of the show ring, I get this feeling of "What does everyone else think? Am I embarassing myself? Do they like my horse? Do they like me?" I don't even think of the judge, so much as the people at the show lol.

                          I defidently enjoy having and knowing someone else out there at least has similar feeling or can understand where my brain is at in the ring.

                          To findeight - I had an old friend many years ago tell me she'd never own a horse b/c she got to emotional to the horse and always did worse on a horse she owned. So she just rode horses for people and did well, said it's a blessing and a curse to own a horse lol. That was all said to me before I even owned my first horse!

                          My trainer wants to have me show her horse this coming summer, show him in a division first and then just hop on my horse and show. We had a pro show him a bit last year for me, get him around and through some sticky spots and his own confience issues at away shows.

                          But the horse that took off with me was years ago, it defidently set me back a bit and I feel has had that hold of me since, so I get nervous to let it go. Even though I know my baby horse won't do anything, I get into the ring and I know I could grab mane with a loop in my rein and just go and he'd do it all great and dandy. Yet I don't do that.

                          I do agree with you 100% at the beginning though, I think of him as a reflection of myself as a rider and not as "This is fun, you're just my horse and we're gonna show today." I get stuck in the "It has to be perfect" world that I have in my head


                            Its sounds more like a sports psychology problem versus confidence issues.

                            A big part of riding (some might say the majority) is psychological. Seeing or talking to a sports psychologist I know helps a lot of people who are athletes and compete.

                            Tonya Johnston, a fellow amateur rider, wrote a book called "Inside Your Ride" which gives riders mental skills for all levels and disciplines (wether you show or not). I actually won the book in a Facebook giveaway had have read halfway through, I need to finish the book...

                            A year ago a took a lesson with a BNR and he talked a lot about riding psychology. He said, when you go into the ring you need to forget about everything else (people watching, fellow competitors, etc) and focus. Focus, focus on your horse and the jump in front of you.
                            *Every horse, at least once in their life, deserves to be loved by a little girl*


                              A few things. I am a lot like you, OP. Self deprecating, confidence issues etc. I have had some great horses and some real jerks. It takes a long time to get over the jerk horses. I was showing 1.10m jumpers and then bought a stopper. Didn't know it at the time, of course... Dealing with him made me scared on every level. I didn't want to ride, jumping anything over an X was terrifying, going fast at all was petrifying. I went to horse shows with my new horse, the bravest and most ammy friendly horse on earth, who didn't know what the word bolting or stopping meant, and repeatedly scratched from 80cm classes because I just could not do it. I would freeze and pull and do double adds in lines and put two in the one stride, etc. My horse was a perfect polite (if bewildered) gentleman about it.

                              I got a new trainer that I credit for a huge confidence boost and also started seeing a sport psychologist. And learned that I had to trust my trainer again (this different one) and go back to pushing in ways that were healthy. All consuming terror is not healthy. I was scared to RIDE even though I wanted to do it more than anything.

                              Things that helped me, assisted by sport psych and trainer, included focusing on the now. Every time I would tense up (I'm talking just hacking around the farm here...) I would touch my horse's neck and pet him. I would go through my equitation checklist which forced my clenched fetal position back to normal and relaxed. I would sing to my horse. If I was too scared (I had a real issue with going on the trails!) I would just stop and acknowledge my fear out loud. And wait for it to quell. If it didn't, I would say, walk ten more steps, then you can get off. Often that ten turned into 20 and the 20 into all the way back home. And sometimes I got off. And that was okay. Acknowledgement of fear is important. It takes away some of the wind in fear's sails. This is from someone who would never in a million years openly admit to anyone in my barn that I'm scared. I did a lot of this stuff alone to feel safer mentally.

                              Fear of going fast was strong too... So I went galloping. Twice a week I would open my horse up and let him go. It made that show ring canter seem like nothing.

                              By the end of summer I would still freeze occasionally in the warm up rings, but somehow got in the Zone for the rounds. I moved back to the 1.10m and hope to do 1.20-1.30m this year. I hacked my horse all around the vast fields and trails. It was still scary sometimes but by taking small steps in a way that *I* felt comfortable, I had success.

                              Don't be afraid to ask your trainer to hop on your horse. Seeing him go around the warm up calmly is good for both you and him! It will give both of you confidence. I also agree with the poster who suggested a bit of drug therapy. Freezing is a tough one and rarely leads to wonderful things; you could also try something natural, like L-theanine if Xanax isn't your thing. But I would totally recommend hand galloping your horse at minimum. That 12 ft show ring stride is extremely intimidating if you're not used to it. Through winter I occasioanlly find myself going "wow too fast" and know it's time to punch up the speed for a few laps to get my speedometer set back to show ring normal!

                              My heart goes out to you. Feeling this way is hard and a real journey. But think of the beautiful success and happiness you will feel as you push through. You can, and will do it! Definitely look into a sport psychologist... And examine your trainer and program through critical eyes too. Sometimes the wrong trainer (even if they are not intentionally doing anything!) isn't the right fit mentally. I learned that the hard way!

                              Good luck, OP.


                                I don't have a ton of time to write this minute, but wanted to jump in here - I have had amazing success with hypnosis.....I had a couple of sessions with a local professional, and went from having to take Xanax before I got on my horse, to being able to focus and calm down in the show ring, and actually start to think my way around the course.

                                Since then, I have downloaded a few of the equestrian sessions from and have found they are great for "tuning up" when I start to feel myself getting a bit amped up again. I'll sit in the car at the show and listen to the session, and then feel like I can go back in the show ring with confidence.

                                Ridiculously worth the $ of the phrases that has stuck with me, that I use when I feel myself getting nervous is "I am confident and self-assured in my riding ability, now and for the rest of my life." Sounds cheesy, I know, but you'd be surprised how much of a difference it can make in the nutty schooling ring!




                                    Original Poster

                                    Across Sicily - The horse I first owned AFTER the horse who took off with me, was a dream boat. Nothing fancy, a very simple horse who got me around the courses etc. Then I moved him to a new barn with a new trainer who said he wasn't good enough, so I sent him out and she let me lease one of her horses who I showed for experience b/c I want to show, yet he was the master at adding. He could get the same striding in a line as ponies, and he was 16.1 hands. Yet he didn't help some confidence, his stride was almost nothing.

                                    Then I left that farm, started up with the trainer I have and we went search and found the horse I currently own who is a dream. She's never once pushed me too far, we have little snippets here and there but eventual I will roll my eyes do what she says and it works out. Imagine that! She really is a blessing in disguse and she KNOWS this horse inside and out for exactly what he wants and needs to go well.

                                    I have had bad trainers, I examine every little thing to the tee and my trainer is good for my horse. And when I have a bad day at the show and end up either just trotting it all or not wanting to do it at all, she never screams at me that I'm an idiot just "There's next time, you just have to relax."

                                    I have never considered galloping, although I am almost positive he could buck me off if he wanted lol. But it is worth a shot, just wait until the better weather when we can literally go outside, out indoor is not the best for doing much lengthening of any aspect.

                                    I have my goal, I know what I want my end goals to all be. I have them all planned it's just a matter of getting myself mentally there. Physically I believe it is hard b/c mentally I am not secure, so how can I push myself physically when I can't mentally commit to certain things.

                                    And the other thing, I should be proud and happy with him at shows. He'd never shown before we bought him, took him to a show about 3 months into having him and just did an under saddle at a show for experience, and he won out of 12 horses. All experienced and kick to go horses. I should be extremely secure in that he is nice and that all I have to do is ride him like we're home! But it's that mental block that sucks.


                                      I will second what's already been recommended: sports psychologist!!! I went to a clinic with Tonya Johnston, who was mentioned upthread, and she is AWESOME. Between that clinic, her book, and "Heads Up!" by Janet Edgette, my confidence over fences has really improved. I had/have that same problem in the warm-up ring -- I would get very flustered with maneuvering around everyone and trying to get to the jump, and then I'd get into the show ring and be a mess. I felt like I couldn't control my body. I'd tell myself over and over again not to pull in the line, or not to stare down the single oxer, but I couldn't stop myself.

                                      The techniques in the books, along with as many show miles as I can afford, have gotten me to a point where I can THINK on course. I still get that flutter in my stomach when my trainer has me do certain things in lessons (it used to be any line, then gymnastics, now it's bending lines to one strides), or before I go in the ring for my first round, but I am able to get past it.

                                      Specific techniques I use:
                                      1. Circle breathing. In SLOWLY through your nose for a count of 5-7, hold for 3, out slowly through your mouth for 7-10. You can picture inhaling positive thoughts, exhaling negative energy if it helps -- sounds a little woo-woo but it works. I do it while I'm waiting to try an exercise I'm nervous about in my lessons and while I'm waiting to go in the show ring.

                                      2. A mantra/specific goals for each ride. I chose a short phrase that represents my goal -- "Rumba Rhythm," to remind me of the rhythmical canter that Rumba had at the first Int'l Hunter Derby Finals -- and I said it out loud in rhythm with my canter every lesson and under my breath in the show ring for a long time. It regulated my breathing, gave me one thing to focus on while on course, and helped me stay on pace. Now I go back to it when I'm nervous about a jump or a distance -- I just start saying it when I turn to whatever's freaking me out. I think it just occupies my brain so I can't obsess about the jump lol. My trainer thinks it's hilarious but it really works!

                                      3. Acknowledging my nerves. I always make sure to tell my trainer when I'm nervous. Not so she can alter what she's asking me to do, though if I'm in meltdown mode I will ask her to take the exercise down a notch. I just find that saying it out loud makes it easier to move past. I read a thread on this forum a long time ago that talked about imagining fear as a bird on your shoulder or the rail -- it's here, but it doesn't have to get in the way of your riding. Once again, it sounds a little silly, but it worked for me!


                                        I haven't taken my "amateur dream horse" to a show yet, but I went through a similar honeymoon phase at home after I got her in late fall. Mare is wonderful, but I ended up trying to tweak this and fix that. Long story short, the wonder mare started getting nervous and fussy. Finally, we had a breakthrough moment. Instead of trying to correct all the little things, I started rewarding all the times she TRIED to do what I asked. In a couple weeks, she was a different horse, and I was more calm.

                                        I hate the schooling area too, but instead of expecting your horse and yourself to be perfect, reward the little things. Pony went by without getting nervous- great! Trotted by the shadows- how brave! Don't beat yourself up, there are lots of us in similar shoes.

                                        Good luck!
                                        Ride on!