I have talked lot about fear, about facing up to the fact we are not indestructible and well, falling off hurts!
Fear aside, there is another emotion that is very important in riding, and that is confidence.
I’m not talking about confidence in terms of the absence of fear, but confidence in terms of believing in yourself, in your horse, and in your ability to train him effectively.
When you lack the confidence, you stop believing in yourself, and the problem with that is that your horse is very aware of the fact that you don’t think you can do it, and if you don’t believe in yourself, well why should he?
“When you lack the confidence, you stop believing in yourself(…)”
The opposite is being a trainer or rider that believes they know everything, and have their “own system” that is completely fool proof and works on every horse and every rider.
Both ends of the confidence scale are particularly detrimental, and both will suffocate your chance of personal growth, and training success.
Having the right amount of confidence, and still understanding that you are always learning, always growing, always perfecting, is yet another fine line in the world of dressage, and if you can find the balance, it will help install the right amount of confidence in your horse.
“Your horse will understand that you are capable(…)”
Your horse will understand that you are capable, but will know that you still grant him the respect to tell you if you are not getting the message across in the right way.
For example, If I give the aid for the half pass, I must be confident and I must expect a reaction. However, I must leave room for the possibility that if I constantly apply the same aid, and my horse gets more and more confused, then it is my aid that is not correct, or my body that is somehow blocking my horse.
Then I must have the humility, and yet still the confidence to say, well I didn’t get it right, how can I change it, and still know that I will get it right, and I can change it.
Walking the fine line of confidence in ones ability, yet leaving room to accept ones weaknesses, allows you the possibility to feel what is happening with you and with your horse, and help you to gain confidence in each other.
Instilling confidence in your horse, is even more difficult, as it requires constant reward, recognition, patience, and compassion, while also maintaining the ability to lead the dance.
“A talented and intelligent horse can be your best ever teacher(…)”
A talented and intelligent horse can be your best ever teacher, because they will have the right amount of confidence in you. Confidence enough to trust in your aids, but confidence enough in themselves, and their relationship with you, to tell you when you didn’t get it right.
It’s the give and take in this relationship, that helps you to grow together, instead of fighting it out in an ego battle of who is right.
If you know that alone you and your horse have worked out the delicate confidence line, that each of you trust and respect the other, then it also helps to have other people around you to foster that confidence.
I’m not saying you need to go out and order your own private cheer squad, I’m saying that if you are always surrounded by people who have a negative or even disrespectful view of you, your horse, and your ability, then eventually this will get to you.
We can all pretend we are islands, but at the end of the day it’s great to have someone who can believe in you when you question yourself, as most dressage riders inevitably do at some point or another.