Ideally, “play” your video twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. With time and practice, you’ll be able to call up the images from your video while you’re riding whenever you need to replace nervousness with confidence and enthusiasm.
Bonus benefit: Once you’ve mastered self-talk and visualization to bolster your confidence, you can use these same tools to improve all aspects of your horsemanship, ease pre-show nerves, and perform your best in competition.
Fear Buster #5: Get physical, using strength and flexibility training.
How it works: By improving your strength, flexibility, and balance, you’ll up your security in the saddle, which will bolster your confidence in your ability to stay safe.
“There’s a direct correlation between balance and strength,” says Terry Orcutt, a sports physiologist who was Team Horse & Rider member and reiner Al Dunning’s personal trainer for seven years. “Moreover, a strong, fit rider is an efficient rider; she can relax and still be in control. A weak rider must use more muscles, has a slower response time, and sometimes over-responds to compensate.
“Plus, horses can sense strength, power, and control,” he adds. “They know intuitively that a strong, fit rider means business. As a bonus, physically fit riders worry less about falling, because they know they’re less likely to injure themselves if they do fall.”
How to do it: Start small and build. If you begin by making abdominal crunches an every-other-day routine, you’ll quickly notice a marked increase in your “body confidence” while riding.
“In the saddle,” explains Terry, “your balance comes from your core muscles–your abdominals. If your abs are weak, your balance is compromised, which can lead you to be constantly over-correcting your position. Your horse can feel this subtle uncertainty in your posture, and he’ll respond with uncertainty of his own.”
Once you’ve made crunches a part of your life, add push-ups and gentle stretches. Then, you can expand your repertoire to include other strength-enhancing moves, using weights, resistance bands and/or exercise balls.
Your best bet is to work with a personal trainer for a few months to learn proper technique and develop a routine that matches your needs. But if that’s not possible, plunge ahead anyway. There are countless books, DVDs, and Web sites to guide you. (Find many equestrian-fitness books and DVDs at HorseBooksEtc.com.)
Bonus benefit: Strong, fit riders are better riders–period. For one thing, their cues are more precise and effective. “It’s the same as for any athlete,” says Terry. “I once heard it said of a football player, ‘He has very soft hands–because his hands are so strong.’ It’s identical for riders–strength enhances finesse.”