I’ve recently gone up from a 13hh pony to a 15hh horse and its rocked my world and my confidence- and not in a good way! I had a great partnership with my old pony who I rode for three years. I knew everything about him – what would spook him, how he would approach a jump, even the smallest of things that would impact on him. My new horse is fabulous, but I am sooo nervous of him, it’s spoiling my enjoyment. Everything is different from his size, to his stride – I’m having to go right back to basics. It’s frustrating and I know it’s not his fault, but what can I do to get that trust and partnership going?
It’s a much bigger step going from a pony to a horse than many people imagine. Along with the changes in size, horses need a different approach to ponies and ideally it is best to start with something straight-forward, a ‘been there, done that’ type. Why is it such a big step? With a horse there is so much more to hold together – they need more rider support unlike ponies who will generally help themselves. A horse’s stride is also harder to sit to (big movements) and its easier to get thrown off balance, a short choppy pony stride is much easier.
Back to Basics
In theory however, with your new horse being 15hh you should have a happy halfway house size-wise between horse and pony. The key is to getting some support – book up some lessons and don’t be afraid to go back to basics – there’s no shame in it. When out hacking make sure you go with someone else you trust and who can give you the support you need to get you through the first few rides out.
Use some relaxation techniques if you need them – focus on taking steady breaths and do a top to toe scan to ensure your body is as relaxed as you can be before you ride-
- Face and jaw are relaxed
- Shoulders dropped away from your ears
- Ribcage relaxed and steady breaths
- Elbows heavy and hands soft on the reins
- Backside isn’t clenching
- Thighs heavy and lengthened downwards
- Lower leg relaxed and weight in the heels
One step at a time
The key is to building your partnership up in small bitesize chunks. Don’t aim for eventing superstardom in the first three months! Set yourself some realistic goals and you’ll soon be flying around on your horse once you have built up your confidence! Good luck.