Confident Rider Tip: Solving the Mystery of the Unexplained ‘Spook’

Question from a reader:

“Do you find that you can be working with your horse for a while, then ask the same thing of him as you’ve already done nicely, and all of a sudden he’s not paying attention anymore? And if you try to get his attention he ‘panics’ or spooks suddenly from the least little thing?”

People are often caught off-guard by the spook, bolt or buck that seems to come out of no where.  Some people think it’s just the horse’s way of evading doing something he doesn’t want to do or that he’s trying to ‘get them’.  While it may be true that horses will try to avoid doing things we ask of them (and, honestly, why shouldn’t they avoid work any less than we do?), it’s not true that they plot and plan ways to get us humans.

Here’s the thing about horses.  As prey animals they want to conserve energy as much as possible so that they have lots available when they need to run away from a predator.  So, a part from the exuberant play that youngsters sometimes indulge in, horses are pretty lazy (to put a label on it).  But, hey – I can relate.  I don’t like to expend any more energy than is absolutely necessary.  That’s why I’m always looking for short cuts to getting chores done around the farm.  One friend says I’m very creative.  I call it laziness.  

But back to the spooking, bolting, bucking horse issue.  So, why does an animal that likes to conserve his energy expend all that excess energy to avoid doing something he doesn’t want to do or just to ‘get the human’?  The answer is – he doesn’t.

There is always a reason for the horse’s behaviour.  Here are 3 possible reasons for that unexplained spook.

  1. Horses see, hear, smell and feel things of which we -mere humans with our different level of senses – are unaware.    Just because you didn’t see or hear anything that you believe would have startled  you horse, doesn’t mean that he didn’t see, hear or even smell something.
  2. Horses learn from repetition and it only takes 3 repetitions for them to see a pattern.  So, it’s really easy to inadvertently teach a horse to be nervous at a certain spot in the arena or on the trail or when asked to perform a particular transition or movement.  And that pattern can be created just as easily for you as it can be for your horse.  So, if your horse has spooked or reacted badly when you ride by a certain area or ask for a transition or movement, your anticipation of a repeat performance can cause you to be tense and nervous which affects how your horse feels physically and mentally.  Vicious cycle created.  
  3. How you sit on your horse affects how he feels.  Whether you’re in a western, english or treeless saddle or riding bareback, you affect (for better or for worse) your horse’s balance, alignment and level of relaxation.  Have you noticed how difficult it is to remain relaxed, supple and balanced when your horse is crooked, off balance and tense?  That works both ways.  So if you’re off balance, crooked or out of alignment in any way the less relaxed  your horse will be and the more reactive he will be to stresses (even little ones) in the environment.  And, you are more likely to give unclear and even conflicting messages to your horse.

Rider misalignment has a huge impact on horses behaviour causing them to exhibit unwanted behaviours or resistance.  You may be familiar with the rider vertical alignment (ear over shoulder over hip over heel) and the horse ‘nose/poll to tail’ alignment.  But are you aware of your alignment to your horse?

Horse and Rider Alignment

Horse and Rider Alignment – My horse is aligned poll to tail (her hind legs track up with her front legs); I am square (hips and shoulders); and we are aligned with each other.

You are sitting on your horse’s spine.  So, if you not aligned with his body and his bend, he will feel at least uncomfortable and at worst pain.  You are aligned with your horse when your belly button aims between his ears; your shoulders mirror his shoulders; and, your hips mirror his hips.  If your horse has a bend to the left (even a slight one), you mirror that bend when you keep your belly button aimed between his ears and your hips and shoulders square.  If your outside shoulder comes forward, his outside shoulder will mirror that and bulge out of the bend.  You’ll both be off balance and you’ll likely be hanging on to the inside rein trying to ‘correct’ him.  And suddenly – out of no where – is that spook or resistance to doing that transition …. 

The first step you can take to helping your horse feel less stressed and therefore less reactive to things in the environment is to improve your alignment.  It will also keep you better balanced and able to deal with any sudden movements that come ‘from no where’.

Your Turn:  Was this post helpful?  Share it with a friend who can benefit from it as well then leave me a comment below and tell me what you are struggling with.


The Bottom Line – The absolute best way to develop a true partnership with your horse is by building your confidence and trust in each other.

You can get your Free Instant Access to my report “The 3 Most Important Skills You Need to Develop Confidence With Horses” when you visit www.AnneGage.com

Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship Clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship www.annegage.com.  

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship –Putting you and your horse in good hands.
www.annegage.com
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Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
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Confident Rider Tip – Managing the ‘What If’s’

Whether you’re suffering from ‘show nerves’ or are afraid to ride at all, you may have been told by your friends, your coach, or even said to yourself – “It’s just in your head”.  

"Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed." Michael Pritchard

It’s true that fear exists in our brains.  There’s a perfectly natural and instinctive program that starts automatically when our brains believe we are in danger.  It’s meant to keep us safe and prevent us from doing things that could cause us physical harm.  The problem is that when it interferes with your enjoyment of riding or showing, then fear is no longer your friend.  

Your brain can’t tell the difference between a real or an imagined danger.  So, when we ‘think’ we might be hurt in some way, that fear alarm is triggered.  The perceived ‘hurt’ might be potential physical injury or emotional (i.e. embarrassment, judgment, etc.)

The good news is that you can take control and manage that fear – whether it’s a mild feeling of stress, a stronger anxiety or an out right shaking in your boots fear.  

You solve any problem at the root of it.  And, the root of the fear is in your head – your thoughts.  When fear controls your thoughts, you go into that negative spiral of the ‘what if’s’.  You ‘think’ that whatever you are about to do is not going to end well.    Riding becomes miserable instead of fun.

The good news is that you can influence your thoughts to build your confidence.  To control those show nerves. To have fun riding your horse.

Change your thoughts and you change how you feel.

Simple advice.  But most people struggle with it.  Take these 3 steps to do it successfully.

Step #1 – Be aware of what you are thinking and saying.  You have about 50,000 thoughts every day!  And you’re unaware of most of them.   As you go through your day, notice how often you use dis-empowering, negative phrases.

Perhaps some of these phrases sound familiar.

  1. “I don’t know what to do!”
  2.  “I’m stuck.”
  3. “This won’t work.”
  4. “This is too much for me.”
  5. “I’ll never get this.”

Notice the emotions you have when you are talking to yourself and to others.

Step #2 – Write down your thoughts.    Keep a journal (on paper or digitally) where you record your negative thoughts.  Write them down as soon as they happen (or as soon afterwards as you can) so that you can record them as accurately as possible.    Note what was going through your mind and what you were doing at that moment.   Also notice the emotions you were feeling.  What came first, the thought or the feeling?

You may find writing down negative thoughts and feelings is difficult.  You may prefer not to face them, feel afraid or even think they are stupid.  But, ignoring the negative thoughts and feelings won’t make them disappear – it just makes them stronger.  You’ll deal with them in the next step.

Step #3 – Flip those negative thoughts on their heads. Once you’ve recorded and become aware of your most common negative thoughts then you can re-write them into empowering phrases that build your confidence.   By changing a negative to a positive statement or question, you give your sub-conscious mind a problem to solve.  It loves solving problems.  So, it will go to work figuring out an answer.  You will move forward.  It will work. You will be able to handle it.  And you will get it.

Here are 5 more examples of confidence-breaking phrases and their confidence building alternatives:

“I’m afraid my horse will spook”  becomes  “I admit that I have a fear my horse will spook. What help can I get to work through this?”

“I hope I don’t fall apart in the show”  becomes “I have prepared myself and my horse well for this show.  We will do our best.”

“I can’t do what my coach wants me to do”  becomes “There’s something I’m not getting yet. I can ask for more help and I can practice more. I know I will get it eventually.”

“I’ll never get these transitions right” becomes “We’ve only been working on these movements  for a short time.  It takes time to get them consistently.”

 “I can’t afford riding lessons or training” becomes “This is something that’s really important to me.  I need xx dollars.  I just need to figure out a way to make that extra money.”

Taking these 3 steps may seem difficult at first.  But the more often you do it, the more natural it becomes.  Practice changing your thoughts to evoke positive emotions and your confidence will grow. 

Share your ‘what if’ and the positive alternative below.  Can’t think of a positive alternative? Post your negative thought & I’ll help you out.


Want more tips on Winning the Mental Game?  Join me on January 8, 2014 at 7pm EST for a free online video training – Confidence with Horses – 3 Actions To Take Now to Be More Confident in the New Year!  To register,  click here.


Free Shipping when you order my paperback book, Confident Rider Confident Horse, from Lulu.com by January 17th.  Use the code SHIPSHAPE14


 
Like this post? Share it with a friend, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  
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You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  
 
Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.
www.annegage.com
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Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
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Psst … There’s a Secret to Building Your Confidence with Horses (and Riding)

When I tell people that a few years ago I lost my confidence for riding, they usually have 2 reactions.  First, they are surprised to find out how scared I was (shaking in my riding boots scared).  Second, they want to know “If you were so scared, how did you get to be so confident now?”

Desire for successI won’t lie – it took a lot of work and it didn’t happen over night.  But, here’s the secret … the main reason I was able to regain my confidence was because my ‘why’ was stronger than my fear.  If I didn’t regain my confidence, I would have had to give up doing what I love best and find another way to make a living. 

I love teaching other horse lovers how to get the best out of themselves and out of their horses.  I love seeing them develop confidence, improve their skills and build better partnerships with their horses.  I love seeing the positive transformation of the human and the horse – together.

It takes desire, dedication and determination – and a lot of work –  to regain your confidence.  It takes courage to take even baby steps forward when you are ‘shaking in your riding boots scared’.  The more clear you are about WHY you want to be with or ride horses the more motivated you will be to do the work.

What’s your why?  It’s that one specific reason you want to be with or ride horses (or a particular horse).  Your ‘why’ might be so that you can enjoy spending time supporting your horse loving child or partner without feeling stressed or anxious. It might be that you want to be able to enjoy a trail ride in the woods or along the beach with your best friend.  Or maybe it’s because you want to be able to do your best in the show ring.

Whatever your why is bring it to life.  Write about it in your journal, create a collage about it or visualize it.  Be as detailed as you can possibly be using all five senses.  What do you feel?  What do you smell?  What do you hear? What do you see?  What will you gain?  How will your life better?  At least once a day read what you’ve written, look at your collage or run through your visualization like you’re watching a movie.

Keeping your ‘why’ in the forefront of your mind will give you the courage to push through the difficult times.  Those times when you just want to quit because it seems to overwhelming.  Those times when you don’t feel like you’re making any progress.

And, remember to recognize and congratulate yourself for the baby steps you make.  Any forward movement is good – it’s movement in the right direction.

You’ll get there – one (baby) step at a time.  I know you can.  Because I’ve been where you are and I did it.

Your Turn – What is your ‘why’ for wanting to be with or ride horses?  Share your thoughts in the comments below – you might inspire someone else.  

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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There are lots more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse in my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.   NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Click here to grab your FREE REPORT “The 3 Most Important Secrets You Need to Know to Develop Confidence with Horses”

Brought to you by Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.   www.AnneGage.com

Confident Rider Tips – 5 Fast & Simple Steps to Being a More Confident Rider (Today!)

Confident Rider Tip - Focus on progress instead of perfection.

How’s your self talk?  You know that constant babble that whirls around inside your head.

Is that voice  – your own voice – your best friend or your worst enemy?  How you talk to yourself affects how you feel and what you do.  When you learn to take control of the ‘thought monster‘ your confidence and your riding will improve.

And you do want to improve your confidence and riding, don’t you? (I thought so.)

Here are 5 steps to help you tame the Thought Monster.

Step 1 – Be aware of your thoughts.  The average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts every day.  Most of these thoughts do not change from one day to the next. And, about 80% of these thoughts are negative! Most of them focus on the past or the future, obsessing about mistakes we have made, planning ahead or worrying, creating fantasy or fiction.  The good news is that when you recognize your thoughts, you can change them.

Step 2 – Write down your thoughts.  When you write down your thoughts, you see exactly what you are thinking about and how often you are thinking about it.  Notice how often you use words like ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘should’ and ‘can’t’.  Also notice how often your thoughts are complaining, whining or judging (yourself or others).   Be careful not to beat yourself up or feel discouraged when you see how many negative thoughts you have.  We all have them.  As Dr. Phil says “you can’t change what  you don’t acknowledge”.

Step 3 – Create a new thought. Take your most frequent negative thoughts and put a positive spin on them.  For example, if your self-talk tells you “I’m such a loser! I’m never going to get these transitions right!”  Remove the judgment and stop beating yourself up.  Try re-framing the thought to a more positive message like “I’m still learning and right now, I’m having a hard time getting these transitions right.  What can I do or who can I ask for help to learn how to do them better?”  This puts the focus on how you can improve and gives your brain a problem to solve.  And your brain likes solving problems.

Step 4 – Become your own cheerleader.  It seems to be human nature to have self destructive, negative thoughts.  And, we are very good at creating negative stories in our heads about future outcomes.  But, you can change your thought patterns so that, instead of focusing on the negative, you can focus on the positive possibilities; instead of being your own worst critic, you become your best support.  Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you would give your best friend if she were feeling down.  Avoid saying anything to yourself that you would not want another person to say to you.

Step 5 – Practice. Practice. Practice. – Retraining your brain is no different to physical exercise.  The more you do it, the better results you see.  Just like going to your yoga or exercise class, there will be days when you won’t be motivated to do the work of paying attention to your thoughts or replace them with positive messages.  The more you practice it, the more natural it becomes.  And, you’ll feel a sense of pride for your accomplishment and a sense of control over your life. That creates an incredible boost of confidence!

The Bottom Line – Your brain can only hold one thought at a time.  Give it something positive to focus on or a problem to solve.  You can feel better about yourself and more confident – today!

Your Turn – What are some of the negative thoughts you have about your riding (I’m sure you won’t be the only one with that thought).  Share them in the comments below and I’ll help you re-frame them.  

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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There are lots more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse in my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.   NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Click here to grab your FREE REPORT “The 3 Most Important Secrets You Need to Know to Develop Confidence with Horses”

Brought to you by Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.   www.AnneGage.com

Are You Expecting Too Much of Yourself or Your Horse?

We all want success and we want it now.  We’ve been taught to “reach for the stars” and set big goals.  As a result, sometimes we expect so much of ourselves and our horses that we are rarely happy with our results.

If you’ve ever said (even to yourself),

“I should be better than this!”

Then you end up feeling like a failure because that “I should be” is really a disguise for that self-defeating old mantra that whispers quietly  “I’m not good enough”.

Failure is not a fact

But what if you are exactly where you should be – where you need to be.

Maybe where you think you should be is simply wishful thinking.  Replace the phrase “should be” with “wish I was” …

  • “I wish I was better than this.”
  • “I wish I was able to …”
  • “I wish I wasn’t so …”

What are you basing your opinion that you “should be …” on?  Who are you comparing yourself to?

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to riding.  Your results – where you are now – come from not only your physical ability, your competency and your confidence level, but also from your horse’s ability, level of training and confidence.

There is a reason that successful people (you know the ones at the horse shows that always seem to be in the top 3 placings and get Champion awards in not one but multiple classes) do so well.  They put in the hours.  If they haven’t done it themselves then someone else has put the hours into their horse so they can just sit up there, look pretty and – as long as they stay out of the horse’s way – win.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, people who become really good at something – really master it – have spent at least 10000 hours working on that particular thing.  Ten Thousand Hours!  That’s about 3 hours a day for 10 years.  So, if you have been riding for 10 years, but only 1 hour a week, you have only put in about 520 hrs (1 hr x 52 wk x 10 yr).  That’s being generous and assuming you didn’t miss a single hour in any year because of illness, injury, vacations, holidays, etc.

This is not to say that you need to put 10,000 hours into your riding to become good at it –  unless you want to be competitive at the highest levels of the sport.  But, it puts into perspective the amount of time needed to develop a particular level of skill.

Chances are slim to none that you will progress very far in developing mastery of any skill if you only put in 1 hour of practice a week.  Now lots of people enjoy a weekly riding lesson and are quite happy to spend that time in the saddle.  They don’t want or expect to achieve much more than the connection with the horse.

But, if you want to progress in your training – for personal fulfilment or to achieve ribbons, trophies and recognition in the show ring – the once a week hourly ride is not going to get your there.  Most people get discouraged when they feel that they aren’t making progress at the rate they “should” or that they aren’t as good as “her” or “him” or “them”.   We are certainly masters at comparing ourselves to others. We’ve all had more than 10000 hours practicing that skill.  Even if it doesn’t help us.

When our expectations are not in line with our reality ie. your other commitments  & responsibilities don’t allow you to ride 3 -6 hours a week, then you won’t be as successful in the show ring as “that other competitor that wins everything”.  Even if you are a pleasure rider, neither your riding skill nor your horse’s training will progress very far or very fast.

You can either be frustrated with  yourself, your coach and your horse and keep your expectations.  Or, you can adjust your expectations to match the reality of your situation. If the reality is that you can only ride once week, then focus on enjoying that one ride.  The choice is yours … should you decide to make it.

Your Turn

How do your goals & expectations affect your enjoyment of riding?  Sharing your experiences or questions is simple.  Just leave a comment or share your thoughts below or through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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For more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse, order my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order from Lulu.com.
 
My paperback book is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Confident Horsemanship with Anne Gage – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

Confident Rider Tips – 7 Tips to Help Improve Your Riding by Improving Your Mindset

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bw horse rider doorway

What one thing distinguishes good riders from not-so-good riders and fearless riders from fearful riders?  It is their mindset.  You may have seen a less talented rider do better than a very talented rider in a competition, in a lesson or just riding down a trail.  Your mind set either pushes you forward or holds you back.

Here are 7 tips to help you develop a more positive mindset whenever you’re with your horse.

  1. Be here now. Stay present and in the moment by focusing on the cues from your  horse and your body.  When you pay attention to what is happening now in this moment, you become pro-active rather than reactive.  You can prevent things from falling apart – even if it’s only falling apart in your mind.
  2. Stop worrying about the outcome.  Focus on building a solid foundation and taking each step that is needed for you and your horse to be able to perform well whether that’s on the trail or in the show ring.
  3. Let go of what others might think about your performance.  Stop trying to read other peoples’ minds.  People who care about you will support you.  The opinion of anyone who doesn’t care about and support you is not important.  Let it go.
  4. Leave distractions and stresses from your life at the barn door.  You really don’t want to take them along for the ride.  If you really want to, you can pick them up on your way out of the door.  Or you can also just decide to leave them there permanently.
  5. Let go of striving for perfection.  In riding (as in many things in life) there is always room for improvement.  Recognize where improvement is needed without beating up yourself (or your horse).  Refer to #2.
  6. Avoid over thinking or analyzing what you’re doing.  Being too much in your head takes you out of your body.  Riding well requires not only awareness of your own body and your horse’s body, but also being able to make a connection between you.  Think less.  Feel more.
  7. Make it a goal to have fun.  When you take things too seriously or only focus on results, riding stops being fun – for you and your horse.   You aren’t having fun if you are judging how well you did on every transition, turn, movement or jump.  When was the last time you just enjoyed being with your horse?

And you can get Free Instant Access to many more powerful tips about building your confidence, horse training and horsemanship by visiting my Facebook Fan Page

What’s your greatest mindset challenge when it comes to riding or handling your horse?  What ways have you found to improve your mindset?  Leave your answer in the comments. You can also ask me your most important question there as well.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available on Amazon.com! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

Are You Riding Your Horse By the Seat of Your Pants?

Video

A new student has recently started taking riding lessons from me.  She has taken riding lessons before. In her other riding lessons, she was trotting and even cantered once – sort of on purpose.

In her lessons with me, she is on a lunge line (well – the horse she is riding is on the lunge line). In my riding lessons, students stay on the lunge line until they are able to steer and control the horse without pulling on the reins.

My new student is finding this very different from her previous lessons. She used to pull the reins to steer.  But now she is noticing the connection between her body and the horse’s body. How the horse’s body moves and how her body moves with his movement when she releases tension from her muscles and joints. How she can steer and control the horse when she uses her seat and her legs in specific ways that work with the timing of the horse’s movement.  How the horse relaxes when she relaxes.

She is finding how wonderful riding feels when it all comes together.

And when you learn to ride this way – with an independent seat and reins that only act as boundaries – you can ride like Richard Spooner did in the video above.

When Mr. Spooner knew that he and his horse were in trouble he dropped his reins, followed his horse’s movement and trusted his horse to get them out of the mess safely. And, his horse had enough trust, balance and self carriage to get the job done.

That’s what trust looks like.

That’s what partnership looks like.

That’s what good riding looks like.

What would happen if you dropped your reins? Would your horse stay balanced and listen to your seat?

I would love to hear what the greatest challenge is that you are facing with your horse right now.  What challenges have you faced and overcome?  Share in the comments below.

If you want to work with me live and in person to learn more strategies and techniques for increasing your confidence, improving your horse’s behaviour and building a stronger partnership with your horse, visit my website or contact me about hosting a clinic or workshop at your location.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
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5 Things You Must Do if Your Horse is Behaving Badly and You’re Losing Your Confidence

Aside

I recently received an email from a young woman confused by her horse’s sudden change approaching jump smin behaviour.  She and her mare have been together for 3 years.  The first year, they showed in hunter, jumper and eventing competitions.  The mare was “a double clear, point and shoot, honest horse” and they worked well together.  Then the mare was off for a year with a foot injury.  When she started training again, the mare was going well and they began jumping higher fences.  All was going well until the rider was thrown at a fence during a show.

“I got back on did the next round which went okay. Then in the final jumper round, she threw me again at the last fence and by then I was just confused. I didnt know, and still don`t know what happened to our connection and our ability to work as a team over the courses. Since then she has thrown me 5 times, and we always have refusals during our jumping lessons and shows.”

Now the young woman doesn’t know what to expect when she’s jumping her mare. She’s tired of falling off and has become afraid of jumping – something she hasn’t experienced before. As she says

“the nerves and anxiety take over.”

When a horse’s performance changes for the worse, you need to do some detective work to get to the root cause of the problem.  Only when you know what the cause is can you apply the appropriate solution.

Horses are creatures of habit and only change their behaviour when something is getting in the way.  Following these tips can help you find the cause and the best solution to your horse’s performance problem.

1.  Check for a physical problem.   Horses can be sore without showing lameness or other noticeable signs.  It’s natural for them as prey animals to hide any sign of weakness which would make them a more appealing target for predators.  So horses can be very good at hiding muscle soreness or chiropractic misalignment.  It is possible that she has some lingering muscle soreness or a misalignment from when she had the foot problem.  You may have experienced this yourself that when one part of the body is sore, other parts take on extra work and can get sore.  Have an equine massage therapist or chiropractor (or both) give your horse a thorough examination.  They can find and relieve some physical problems that you or your veterinarian may have missed.

2.  Check saddle fit.  Horses’ muscle development can change with age and the amount and type of work they are doing.  Saddles also change with wear.  The stuffing can pack or break down and wrinkles can develop in the leather causing pressure points.  Since this mare had a year off from any work, her shape will be much different than when she was in regular work. Check the condition of your saddle and how well it fits your horse.  Here’s a link to some good videos about how to check saddle fit.  http://www.schleese.com/9PointChecklist.  A good saddle fitter can also help with the assessment and may even be able to make adjustments to your saddle so that it fits your horse better.

3.  Go Back to Basics with Your Horse. Training problems can also happen because the horse is moved along more quickly than she is physically or mentally ready to handle. Go back to the work your horse can comfortably perform and bring her along more slowly.  A good place to start is with flat work that helps strengthen her hindquarters and back – both necessary for jumping higher fences.   Then rebuild her confidence by working over poles, cavalletti and smaller jumps.

4.  Go Back to Basics with Your Riding.  Suppleness and balance are both very important components of good riding.  Suppleness is replaced with tension when riders lose their confidence.  The riders’ balance may be thrown off if they progress too quickly without having a solid independent seat.  Rider tension and imbalance impact the horse’s ability to perform well. Focusing on improving your seat and hands improves your softness, suppleness and balance in the saddle – which makes you a better partner for your horse.

5. Enlist your coach’s help.  Have a very honest conversation with your coach about how you are feeling.  Work with him or her to go back to a level of riding where both you and your horse are comfortable so that you can ride without tension, improve your seat and your riding position and your horse can develop the strength and suppleness for the work you want her to do.  As you rebuild  your confidence, your horse’s confidence and fill in any gaps in your riding foundation, you and your horse will become better partners for each other.

The most important thing to remember is that your horse’s behaviour is her communication.  When she has been performing consistently well and then suddenly changes, there is something getting in her way.  Figure out what the cause is and then you can work on the most beneficial solution.

I would love to hear what the greatest challenge is that you are facing with your horse right now?  What challenges have you faced and overcome?  Share in the comments below.

If you want to work with me live and in person to learn more strategies and techniques for increasing your confidence, improving your horse’s behaviour and building a stronger partnership with your horse, visit my website or contact me about hosting a clinic or workshop at your location.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

Confident Rider Tip #2 – Decreasing Uncertainty Builds Confidence

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Most of us don’t like uncertainty.  Uncertainty makes us nervous – even frightened.  When you work with horses there is often uncertainty involved.  That uncertainty may be because you don’t know how something will turn out.

It may be about not knowing how your horse is going to behave in certain situations.  Will he let you catch him today? Will he spook in that corner of the arena?  Will he spook ‘at nothing’?   Will he be calm on the trail today?  What will he do when we go to the show?

Uncertainty is uncomfortable because it triggers the fight or flight centre of your brain causing fear, anxiety and even temporary mental or physical paralysis.  These reactions worked well for our prehistoric ancestors who had to be wary of dangers that threatened their lives every day.  I can only imagine what it would be like to come face to face with a sabre tooth tiger or a meat eating dinosaur.

But these reactions aren’t so great when they interfere with the pleasure of the activities you want to share with your horse.  You miss out on so many possibilities and amazing experiences.  You lose the magic of true connection and partnership.

You may have looked at other riders who never seem to be afraid and wondered if some people are born with a genetic predisposition that allows their brains to not go to that place.  There may be a very small number of people who do seem to have these genes.  They don’t seem to be triggered into fear as easily as the rest of us.  But that is a tiny, tiny part of the population.  For most of part, people are not born that way.

What most of us (including me) have to do is develop skills and practices that help us to take positive action in the face of uncertainty – despite the fear and anxiety that we feel.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have it.  We simply learn to manage it.   People who are able to move through their uncertainty are able to take forward action because they turn that uncertainty into curiousity and creative thinking.  They ask better questions and are able to solve problems.

Horses don’t behave randomly.  There is always a reason for what they do.  It may be a learned response that needs to be “un-learned”.  It may be a natural response to a noise we don’t hear or a movement we don’t see.  It may even be a response to a subtle shift in your energy, your position in the saddle or posture on the ground.

When you become curious about your horse’s behaviour, you gain a better understanding of him and of his perception of the world.  You begin to see with certainty what causes his behaviour and then you can take actions to change it.  You can be pro-active instead of reactive.

So how do you become curious and ask better questions?  You start by staying in the moment.  That means you stop creating stories about what is going to happen.  You know that future thinking you do where you predict what is going to happen before it happens.  Things like – “he’s going to spook in that corner and he’ll bolt and then I’ll fall off and break something and end up laid up for weeks. OMG – I won’t be able to work or look after the kids.  …..”   STOP!

But, if you became curious and creative about the same situation your thinking would be more like this – “I know he doesn’t like that corner.  I wonder how I can help him deal with it better?  I could hand walk him around the arena until we both feel calm.  I need to remember to breathe and keep the tension out of my body.  I could lunge him in that corner.  I could ask my coach (or another competent rider) to ride him so I can see how they handle it and if he gets tense with them or maybe it’s my tension affecting him.  Maybe we just have a pattern about getting tense in that corner.  ….”

Did you notice how your body felt as your read those 2 different examples?  If not, read them again and pay attention to any physical reactions.

When you give your brain a problem to solve, that’s what it focuses on.  It can’t focus on 2 thoughts at the same time.  And your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what you are making up.  So, when you focus on asking better questions your brain focuses on finding the answers and it cannot focus on anything else.  And, as you focus on solving the problem, your uncertainty decreases and you are able to take forward moving actions.

The more you do that, the more your confidence increases.

So, start asking better questions. Then share your results in the comments below.

If you want to work with me live and in person to learn more strategies and techniques for increasing your confidence, improving your horse’s behaviour and building a stronger partnership with your horse, visit my website or contact me about hosting a clinic or workshop at your location.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

Change This One Thing to Improve Your Horse Riding

Take a moment to look at the photo below and imagine that’s you riding your horse.

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What thoughts went through your mind?  Were they mostly positive or negative?  What did you physically feel when you had those thoughts?  Your thoughts affect how you feel not just mentally, but also physically.

The human brain can only hold one thought at a time.  We have an almost constant stream of 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts in a day.  We think at 300 words a minute.  We can’t go any longer than 11 seconds without talking to ourselves.

So, whatever you focus your mind affects the quality of all those thoughts streaming constantly through your mind.

And those thoughts also affect how your horse feels.Your horse is a master of reading even the most subtle body language.  So, even if you don’t recognize that your posture, energy, tension and movements have been affected by your thoughts, your horse picks up on it.

In the scene in the photo, if the rider gets nervous or frightened about the traffic going by, her horse (who might have been ok with cars and bicycles) reacts to her tension and also gets nervous.  With her body tense and her mind focused on the traffic, the rider becomes ineffective as she cannot give clear cues to her horse.  Both horse and rider are in ‘reactive’ mode.  There is no rational thought as the flight instinct kicks in to high gear.

But there is another (a better) option.  The rider can’t stop the flow of thoughts, but she can replace them with more helpful ones.

She can take her focus off the traffic and put it on her horse.  With focused awareness, she knows the vehicle is coming before it is beside her.  She asks her horse to bend away from the car (so if he spooks he will move towards the grass and not into the middle of the road.

With focused awareness, she also knows the cyclists are coming up behind.  She can wave them to pass on the far side, ask them to dismount and walk their bikes by, walk her horse up the driveway just in front of them or even dismount and settle herself and her horse from the ground.

When you focus on a problem, your end up in a negative cycle of thoughts that increases self doubt and decreases your confidence.  When you focus on finding a solution, you recognize there is (or could be) a problem and you look for one thing you can do to improve the situation.  Do that one thing and you will feel better. Then look for another way you can improve the situation.  When you feel better, you can help your horse feel better, too.

You have 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day.  Whatever you focus them on is what you will get – positive or negative; problems or solutions; self doubt or confidence.  It’s your choice.

How have your thoughts been affecting your rides?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Enjoy the journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

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