Monday, 1 February 2016

Tigger rides again as confidence is restored

My heart is pounding and my palms are sweaty. My horse, Wilbur, picks up on it and jogs down the driveway. I know I need to breathe, but it feels like my chest is tightening. The thought of getting to the road makes my mouth dry. Sound familiar? Well, there are simple ways to restore your confidence, as I found out a couple of weeks ago, when I attended an unmounted rider confidence workshop with Amanda Kirtland-Page.

Just being in a room of like-minded riders who all were all suffering with riding nerves of some sort was a comfort. It was proof I wasn't alone. The workshop was fully interactive, using NLP (neurolinguistic programming)-based techniques such as visualisation, self-hypnosis and anchoring.

So, how does it work? Well, your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is imagined and what is real; it reacts to your thoughts - the pictures you present in your mind. So visualisation helps you to trick your subconscious into thinking something else is reality which then allows your body to relax and breathe. Amanda suggested using cartoon characters for our visualisation exercises. For me, this meant having a picture in my mind of Wilbur as Shrek's Donkey and I was Tigger. Just imagining this helped my breathing to slow down. To take it one step further, picture yourself riding in the most ridiculous place. Confectionery seemed to figure highly in our discussions so we thought about riding through marshmallow woodland. For those of us who had nerves relating to jumping, we imagined flying over chocolate bars! The wackier your thoughts, the more relaxed you tend to be. As crazy as this sounds, I can say, hand on heart, it works.  Now, if Wilbur starts to be spooky or sharp, I pretend  he's talking to me as Donkey - I can hear the voice - and it instantly makes me smile and become more relaxed.

We also practised self-hypnosis, which was similar to a deep meditation. Again, this helps with relaxation and can be used before riding. The anchoring technique was also powerful. We were asked to recall a time when we felt confident (riding or non-riding related) and play this in our mind. We then created an anchor (or trigger) to stimulate those feelings whenever we need them. The workshop was excellent and Amanda was a great coach - knowledgeable and empathetic given her own battle with nerves.

I have since hacked out with much more confidence and, along with the help of  Gail Wilson (my instructor),  I feel I have more control of my nerves in the school. In fact, my newfound confidence was tested only last week when Wilbur took off round the school and....I stayed on rather than bail out! Not only that, but the confidence gained in this area has given me the motivation to take steps towards goals in my personal life too. Thank you Amanda.

Interested in finding out more? Go to Amanda's website to see how she can help you help you to enjoy your riding again.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.  

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