DON'T GET STUCK IN A RUT! Build your horse riding confidence

Build your riding confidence with these simple steps
Lack of confidence when riding your horse is common, and there is lots that can be done to help.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and it can seem as though you are alone in feeling this way, but you can make some simple changes that will start rebuilding your confidence straight away!  Here are just three of ten steps to get started with. 
sue Palmer june 2015

1.Spending more time riding. 

Try to ride for at least a few minutes every day, even if it's just in walk. You'll be surprised how quickly your confidence improves. One of the main reasons that there are so many horse behavioural problems nowadays is that most horses don’t have a job to do, and of course behavioural problems often lead to the rider loosing confidence.  Spending time with horses is now a leisure activity, compared to the work that was done with horses in times gone by.  For example, horses working in trekking centres, don’t give their riders cause to lack of confidence.  Set yourself up in a safe environment with appropriate help if necessary, and make whatever effort is required to push yourself just a little bit outside your comfort zone each day.  This will be different for every person, and might involve simply sitting on your horse in the ménage, or it picking up canter every day.  The key is to stay safe and to spend more time doing what you can confidently do, and over time your confidence will grow.

2.Being as sure as you can that your horse is physically comfortable. 

'Bad' behaviour is often pain related, so have well qualified professionals check your horse’s soundness (vet), back (, saddle (, teeth ( and feet ( A horse is only able to communicate with you through his behaviour. So if he is trying to tell you that he is in pain, he may well ‘misbehave’.  It is difficult to gain confidence when you are riding a horse who is misbehaving, or who doesn’t appear to be listening to his rider.  For example, a horse who has pain in his hocks will often display sudden and unpredictable behaviour such as bucking or shooting forwards.  A horse who has a sore back may nap, or hold his head high with a rigid neck.  A horse whose saddle doesn’t fit may snatch at the bridle, and a horse with dental pain may be resistant to the contact or difficult to steer.  A horse with poor shoeing or poor quality feet may stumble, or refuse to go forwards.  Addressing the issue can sometimes result in instant improvement in behaviour, which allows an instant improvement in the confidence of the rider.

3.Ride with friends you trust. 

Riding out with people who are not in control of their horse is potentially dangerous and quite rightly frightening. This applies whether you are riding in the ménage or out hacking.  Riding your horse should be an enjoyable time, not a stressful one, and the people you surround yourself with can be instrumental in allowing you to enjoy yourself.  If you are out hacking and the person you are with suddenly canters off without warning you, or refuses to stay in walk even when you’ve asked them to do so, then it is no wonder that your confidence will be low.  If you are riding in the ménage with someone who is continually making you feel hopeless, shouting advice that is not helpful to you, or upsetting your horse by their behaviour, then again you will struggle to gain confidence.  Having the right people around you is essential to develop your confidence at a pace that is right for you and your horse’s abilities.

10 things that confident riders don’t have to think about. 
These are the first three of ten tips soon to be released as a mini-book – sign up at to be among the first to receive more information!
This list is not by any means exhaustive, and there are plenty more options to consider. Trust your instinct and the feedback you get from your horse, rather than what you read on the Internet, what the person in the next door stable did, or what you hear from well meaning friends. Get professional help from someone well qualified, experienced, and fully insured - remember that often you get what you pay for. Write down your goals, and believe that you will find your way to them by following a path that is right for you and your horse. 

For practical help with your horse's behaviour please contact your local Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Associate at 

If you are concerned that your horse's behaviour might be pain related, contact your vet, or your local Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist at 

To find your local BHS qualified instructor please visit 

Lots more great advice and tips on horse and rider behaviour Read more