It frustrates me when people ask for a horse to be a ‘confidence giver’. When we ride we broadly expect to be able to direct the horse’s energy. A basic knowledge of psychology tells us that our mind affects our body and our unconscious reactions. When we are with horses, especially riding, any body tension in the rider will be felt by the horse.
It is a circuit: the rider’s mind impacts the rider’s body. It is connected to the horse, so the horse feels our response. The horse will translate our tension – or confidence, or determination – through their body to their mind and then of course react. Some horses are bred to be more alert and are sharper to ride, and all of them have a hard wired response to flee danger..
We need to help our horses to relax and trust us when we ride. One of my dressage trainers, Bill Noble, stressed to us that we needed to teach our horses to relax by always being calm, clear and consistent. “You can always add impulsion , but you can’t take away tension.. . ” was a mantra to ride by.
So, in my humble opinion, we need to give our horses confidence and build their trust in us, not expect them to put up with our nervousness! This is a step by step process, starting with understanding the stresses on a horse, taking time to build your relationship, and above all – to keep learning. Watch good riders, observe at clinics, volunteer at big events, improve your balance and fitness, train with coaches that really understand how to produce a sound and calm horse…. It’s a journey, stay positive and enjoy it!!