Psychology of Sport

The Confidence Crisis in Equestrian Sport

If you are an equestrian athlete, you know that confidence is your secret weapon.

There is no sweeter feeling than knowing that, no matter what the situation or degree of pressure, that you have what it takes to get the result you envisioned. You deliver when it counts.

But, what if you’re lacking that secret weapon and it’s a struggle for you to deliver? Maybe you’re stressed, not sure of yourself and not getting the results you planned for.

My experience working with equestrians of all levels, including some leading professionals, is that many riders struggle with confidence. I’d go as far to say that there is a confidence crisis in horse sport.

As a quick check-in on your own confidence, here are a few questions to rate yourself…

  1. I feel confident and self-assured about my riding skills and abilities.
  2. My internal voice is positive and does not create doubt before I go in the ring.
  3. It is easy for me to take some risk in the ring to try and win.
  4. I believe I can win when I compete in the ring.
  5. I have a defined plan that helps me believe in what I want to achieve and where I’m going in the sport.
  6. I find myself focusing on other riders’ accomplishments and what they are doing.
  7. I always look at failure as an opportunity for growth and improvement.
  8. I never feel anxious or scared when I compete.
  9. I perform better in the competitive ring versus the training ring.
  10. I never feel low when I see how other riders are doing on social media.

If you can answer yes to at least eight to 10 of these questions, you are confident. If you are between five and seven positive responses, attention is needed to determine why confidence is lacking. Below five and a development plan is required.

So, what might contribute to a lack of confidence in your riding? There are many areas to look at, but here a few key ones that we find are the most common reasons confidence is lacking in today’s rider:

Limited self-awareness

This is just common sense. If you don’t truly know or understand something, it is difficult to truly believe in it. Many riders lack the self-awareness, and therefore the confidence, it takes to be a high performer.

Read “Try Less, Trust More for Better Results” and “Your Comfort Zone Is Limiting Your Riding.”

Mastering the voice

Riders do not have an ongoing strategy for regulating the voice that is constantly talking to them and creating doubt whether they can do it or not. A strategy is needed to address and challenge the most important voice in riding—your own!

Read “How Gratitude Can Take Your Riding to the Next Level and Six Reasons to Embrace Your Riding Mistakes.”

No plan

Planning establishes direction.Very few riders have a defined plan that gives them the direction and structure to achieve something in the sport. Funny enough, even with the significant financial investment in equestrian sport, careers are very random with the hopes that things will work out.

Read “Good Decisions Begin with Strong Values.”

Winning is elusive

Equestrian is highly competitive and winning percentage is low. Riders can easily get in the rut that losing is a habit.

Read “Do You Ride Big or Small? The Choice Is Yours! and “Enjoy Your Riding First…and Then Win!

Factors out of your control

The sport is very expensive to reach top levels. Many riders don’t own their own horses so the possibility of losing them causes uncertainty. Navigating relationships with sponsors can be stressful.

Read “Embrace Pressure to Become a Better Rider.”

Social media

Constantly seeing the success of other riders and making comparisons distracts from the mandatory singular focus of a rider’s own enjoyment, path and career.

Read “Are Emotions Getting the Best of You in Your Riding?and “OMG, Did You Hear…?!

Isolation

Equestrian can be a lonely sport. Riders are very isolated, constantly working on training with their own horses and often little collaborative association with other riders.

Read the “X Factor in Equestrian Coaching.”

Conor Swail in the “Think Box.”

If you are a rider, you need confidence—the mindset that you know you can do it and sustain it. Listed above are a few of the many factors that can adversely impact your confidence and cause performance to spiral quickly, along with links to posts that will help you develop the right mindset.

Spending the time to understand confidence and learn how to build it is an important investment in your riding career, so you can become as confident a rider as you’d like to be!


About the Author

John Haime is 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.