It happens to the best of us – even Olympic riders have had their fair share of tumbles, and we all know the saying – “get straight back on the horse” – but it’s not always that easy, so what can you do if you’ve lost your confidence as a result of a fall or accident?
There’s no doubt riding horses is one of the most dangerous sports you can do, all the accident statistics point to it, and yet human nature helps us to block that “minor” fact from our minds – it’s only when an accident actually happens to us, that we review the status quo.
Generally, there are 3 types of reaction to a fall or an accident.
- You might become extra alert whenever a certain situation arise similar to the one when you had your fall or accident
- You avoid the situation altogether choosing to stop jumping , or avoid certain routes on a hack
- You experience anxiety – butterflies in the stomach, headaches or even a pounding heart beat just thinking about what happened
Immy fell from her horse during a hunter trial and badly hurt her shoulder. She says,” I had to be treated by the paramedics on the course. My horse ran off so even if I wasn’t hurt I couldn’t have got straight back in the saddle and repeated the fence to chase away those bogies. It took me two weeks for my shoulder to fix and during that time I had built the whole event up in my mind so much that I decided that I wouldn’t do XC any more.” Fortunately, Immy had a great instructor and when she was fit enough, they went back out and tried some small XC fences until she felt confident enough to have a go at the fence where she fell. Two or three successful jumps over this, and Immy was flying again.
So, if you experience a confidence crisis like Immy, how can you deal with it?
A lot of how you deal with it will depend on your unique situation and your individual personality. Your age, experience, any injury you sustained will all contribute to how you regain your confidence.
You can ease a lot of fear if you carefully analyse what happened. By doing so you might come to realise that it was a unique set of circumstances, the probability of it happening again being minimal. It might be that your horse stumbled, or you lost a rein, or something flew out of the hedge that spooked him. Once you can logically review the situation, things should become calmer in your mind and you are on the way to regaining your confidence.
Before you get back in the saddle, if you sustained a physical injury, make sure you are strong enough to ride -this will give you a sense of security when you start again. Also make sure you are strong enough mentally – visualise yourself overcoming the problem, and use positive thoughts – don’t think “I’m sure I’m going to come off if another bird flies out from that hedge”, instead think, “I am feeling a little bit anxious about riding again, but that’s normal I am secure in my seat, my horse is going well and it will be fine!”
Next, you need to overcome your fear by getting back in the saddle, but the key advice here is to take it slowly. Build yourself back up to the level/place you were at before in little confidence-building steps rather than launching yourself back in at the deep end straight away. Take someone with you to hack out or put the jumps up, or talk you through the best way to tackle a situation.
And, finally, here is the good news- when you do actually overcome the thing that you were nervous of, the feeling is absolutely immense afterwards! The more you do it, the less and less anxiety surrounds it until eventually, you won’t think of it! Result!