No, this article isn’t about riding a small pony or a big bay, it’s about helping you see how you have a choice in choosing how you will ride and often how well you will do.
Well, let me begin by telling you that this article is primarily about confidence. What is it? How do you develop it? Where does it go when you lose it? Can you do anything about it?
Here’s a short video we shot at the CP Palm Beach Masters in Wellington, FL earlier this year to help highlight two primary keys to confidence:
As the video highlights, preparation, planning and testing is the first step in developing your confidence. The more you learn about your craft and “know” you can do in training, the better the prospects of you being able to execute those skills in the show ring. Training must simulate the “real” thing—as closely as possible. If training and showing are very different, you may not be ready for what comes in the show ring.
The second key in the video is your own voice and what that voice is saying to you. Is it providing a nice support system or is it your own worst enemy? While there are other, smaller factors in building your confidence, preparation/planning/testing and what you say to yourself moment to moment are ultimately the big ones in developing and sustaining confidence.
Over time, each of us builds a thick wall of confidence from all the great successes we have. For you, your thick wall of confidence includes all of your riding achievements, all of those challenges you have overcome and the great feelings of improvement and learning your craft. This becomes the basis of your confidence. It’s always there.
We all run into challenges and problems that make us question our confidence. Do I have it? Where has it gone? Am I losing it? Your riding and your life go in cycles—great periods and not so great—it’s the nature of both your riding and your life. We can’t be great all of the time. Some days we have those great feelings and so does our partner. Other days we can’t quite find them. I’m sure you have experienced those days where things just aren’t quite right with you or your partner!
So simply, what does this all mean?
It means you are in control of your confidence and it ultimately is your choice whether you have it or lose it. Confidence is a choice!
If you are reading this article, it probably means you enjoy riding and put time in to develop and master the skills. That effort is a foundation of your confidence.
But, any preparation or practice can, under levels of pressure, always be compromised by the ultimate gatekeeper—your own voice. That little voice can create uncertainty, feelings of fear and general thoughts that aren’t helpful for you to ride your best. If that voice is supportive, encouraging, strong and directs you in the moment, all of the work you’ve done to prepare to be your best will be accessible for you.
So, confidence is really your choice. You can ultimately decide to “Ride Big,” a big presence in the saddle leveraging your great training, coaching and partner.
Or, you can decide to “Ride Small,” shrinking your great training, coaching and partner with a voice that allows you to access a fraction of your abilities.
I see this regularly—very competent riders shrinking in the saddle before they begin a class. Remember that over time your riding will go up and down in cycles. It happens…for everyone. But, you have built your confidence over time and you can always make the decision to either have it or lose it.
The question is: do you Ride Big or Ride Small when you enter the show ring?
About the Author
John Haime is a President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach, former professional athlete and current bestselling author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. John coaches leading professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system and is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes—professional and elite amateur. See www.johnhaime.com to learn more.