If you’re a horse rider who is struggling with nerves, maybe even identifying yourself as a ‘nervous rider’, then I want to reassure you that you’re certainly not alone. Many riders experience nerves in different ways and situations, whether they struggle with self-doubt and nerves when hacking out, competing, jumping or even simply getting on their horse.
The possible causes for experiencing nerves are vast, and nerves may only affect you in specific situations, perhaps around jumping above a certain height, hacking on your own or in company, or perhaps you experience nerves in certain types of weather (the list here is endless, and I’m sure you can already identify some of your own triggers!). However, have you ever considered that experiencing nerves when riding might actually be a good thing? Perhaps not… so let’s dive in!
Experiencing nerves when riding shows that you care.
“Well of course I care!”, I hear you say. Sometimes, when our nerves overwhelm us and we feel all of those uncomfortable (and let’s face it, downright unhelpful) emotions, it’s really easy to get ‘stuck in the weeds’ of our present experience, and feel unable to change how we feel. However, a simple reframe of your experience can be enough to get back to riding proactively, to know that we have a choice about what we do at any given moment. How about considering that your nerves are providing you with feedback about just how much your horse means to you and how much you value the connection between you both. Maybe you can even reframe your nerves to excitement (after all, both of both nerves and excitement have the exact same physiological responses in the body!).
Experiencing nerves when riding shows you exactly where you need to improve and develop.
Instead of this being an opportunity to beat yourself up, how about finding the positive, constructive feedback in your experience of nerves? Your nerves are showing you exactly where the edge of your comfort zone is, and are there to direct your mental, physical and training needs. They are literally showing you the way to becoming a more confident, calm and happy rider! Who knew?! So what opportunities and possibilities are available to you right now, to help you develop on those key training needs?
Your riding nerves are a brilliant indicator of your starting point.
Just because you’re experiencing nerves around your riding right now, doesn’t mean that it has to be this way forever. Your present experience of feeling nervous about riding is really the most exciting thing; these nerves are your trigger to change what you do, how you ride, how you think, feel and act as a rider. Your nerves are the trigger for you to explore and learn how to become the rider you really want to be… and how brilliant is that? You now get to choose what happens next, and remember that by not making a decision to act, you are still making a decision! So how about making a better one?
Your riding nerves show you that you have goals, hopes and dreams.
If you weren’t experiencing nerves, then you’re 100% comfortable in what you’re doing. And that’s great; no-one has the right to tell you that you have to do anything differently, if you don’t want to get different results. But I know that your nerves are simply highlighting that this thing that you’re nervous about is something that you really want to do. So that means it is linked to your hopes and dreams around riding. You might not yet believe that you can, but you will when you follow the process and learn how.
Your experience of being a rider who is struggling with nerves means that you are a normal, healthy human being.
You’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re awesome, just as you are. Your brain is functioning in absolutely the right way to protect you from imaginary or real danger, and it is sounding the alarm bells just in case. So I want you to thank your brain for doing its job properly! So if you really want to overcome your nerves around riding, then you need to learn how to get your brain working for you and acting in a more helpful way. All it takes is a decision to explore and an openness to find techniques and strategies that work for you and your horse.
So if you’d like help with overcoming your nerves, then this is how I can help you.