You may think confidence is something you either have or you don’t, but that’s not true. Confidence comes from taking risks, failing, learning, and trying again. It comes from practicing, succeeding and recognizing that you’re making progress. Here are five things that confident riders do that make them that way.

1. Confident riders are willing to risk failure

They operate just outside their comfort zone, which is where learning happens, so they make a lot of mistakes. They’re just as uncomfortable with mistakes as everyone else; they just do it so often, they get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Andrea Waldo. © Brant Gamma Photography

Andrea Waldo. © Brant Gamma Photography

2. Confident riders see failure as information; they don’t take it personally

This goes back to a quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed 10,000 times, I’ve just discovered 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” Confident riders don’t think “Wow, I suck, I’m a terrible rider” when they make a mistake. Instead, they think, “Wow, that sucked. What should I do to make it better?” They don’t waste time with self-criticism, they look ahead to what they can do to improve.

© Alex Carlton

© Alex Carlton

3. Confident riders are aware of their horse at all moments

Ever notice how a confident rider rarely gets dumped on the ground when a horse spooks sideways? Sure, a major part of that is having a good seat, but it’s also because they often feel it coming the instant before it happens. When there’s a flapping plastic bag blowing by, they’re not worrying whether their horse will spook at it; they’re noticing what he’s doing so they can respond appropriately.

4. Confident riders remember that horses aren’t people, they’re horses

In other words, confident riders know that horses don’t think like we do, and they learn to understand things from the horse’s point of view. They know, for example, that horses have a hierarchy, not a democracy, so they recognize the need for the rider to be the “alpha mare” in the relationship in order to make their horse feel safe and secure. They put their horse’s need for leadership over their own need to be “liked” by their horse.



5. Confident riders notice what goes well during every ride

They recognize where they’re improving and they know what their skills are, so they trust those skills. If you know you’re good at sitting a spook, you won’t worry about whether your horse is going to spook all the time. Confident riders aren’t arrogant; they just know what their abilities are and they recognize the positives in every ride. (This tends to make them pretty happy when they’re riding, too!)

Which of these five things can you do today to become more confident? They are doable for everyone! Go for it!

About the Author

Andrea Waldo is a competitive event rider, USEA certified instructor and co-owner of Triple Combination Farm in Ferrisburgh, VT. Also a certified psychotherapist, she combined her knowledge to create the StressLess Riding Program.