Try these 3 handy confidence building tools to level up your riding in the ring or down the trail!
Most of us can relate to those humbling moments in the saddle when your confidence takes a nose dive and the nerves take over. Maybe it was at the show when you heard the announcer, you were at the gate, your heart was pounding, the sabertooth butterflies in your stomach started stirring in full force or maybe it was when your horse froze on the trail and you could hear his heart beating just as loud as your own. In those moments there is no time to step away to attempt to find your composure. You need to pull yourself together. Fast.
Easier said than done, right? Not to worry, I’ve got three practices that can help you quiet nerves quickly without having to leave the saddle…
1. Sense Your Surroundings
How to do it: Pick one thing you can see; look at the details and lines of it. Listen to one distinct sound you can hear, pinpoint where it is coming from and the notes of it. Find one thing you can feel against your skin (reins or your horse’s mane), feel the texture. Breathe in through your nose, sort through the air to smell just one scent. Tune-in to your taste buds, determine what you taste in the air.
Why it works: By finding one specific thing to tune each of your senses into, you draw awareness to each of them. This act of checking in with the real details around you, helps to pull you into the present leaving the jitters of anticipation behind.
2. Breathing with the Horse's Movement
How to do it: As you ride your horse at a walk follow the rhythm of the hoofbeats allowing your breath to match up with that rhythm. Breathe in letting the air reach down deep in your belly for four hoofbeats, hold it onto the air for four, breathe out for four, rest for four, and then start the cycle again with breathing in for four.
Why it works: Most often when we are nervous we hold our breathe or breathe very shallow (I’m pretty sure this gives the sabertooth butterflies room to multiply like crazy) which causes us to hold tension and store the nervous energy in our body. By focusing on evening out your breathing and paying attention to taking slow even breaths you can decrease the physical feelings of tension in your body and start to release the extra energy that you are generating.
3. Breath of Gratitude
How to do it: While sitting on your horse at a stand still take one deep breath in through your nose with your eyes closed (or nearly closed), follow the air flowing throughout your body all the way to your fingers and toes then back out through your nose. Take the next deep breath with your eyes open focusing on something very close to you so that your eyes must use their near sided vision. Finally, take the last breath using your full field of vision taking in the expansiveness of all that is around you, breathing in gratitude for the amazing horse you get to ride, the incredible space you get to ride in, and talented horses you get to ride amongst.
Why it works: The real magic in this one is the rush of gratitude that comes in on the third breath. When the feeling of gratitude takes over your body it automatically pushes out feelings of fear. As an added bonus it also make most of us beam with joy and who doesn’t want to be beaming while they are riding their amazing horse.
*One thing to note is that mindfulness muscles become the strongest when they are exercised regularly. For maximum benefit start out practicing with these tools during times when you are relaxed. Then step up to intentionally using them during times that are mildly irritating, by the time you go to use them under higher stress situations you will have strengthened your skills enough to conquer the nerves the moment they start creeping up.
Here’s to riding with gratitude and grace.