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          Fear on horseback: how to (re)gain confidence?

          Thursday, November 10, 2022

          "I'm not going to make it", "I don't have the level", "it's too hard"... Which rider has never had these sentences in mind? The fear of not succeeding, of making mistakes, of embarrassing his horse, of disappointing (the others or himself)... These are feelings well known to all riders. The lack of self-confidence is not rare in this sport. What are the causes of these doubts? Why are they harmful? But above all, how to overcome them? 

          To answer these questions, I met Marie Caucanas, clinical psychologist, riding teacher and former CSO rider on the Pro circuit. She founded her own method of equestrian mental preparation, L'ÊtreCavalier. I thank her for the time she devoted to us 🙏

          📝 Table of contents

          Charlotte Slosse wears the SAFEFIT Navy

          Self-confidence: what is it?

          Self-confidence is the rider's representation that the rider has of his own resources and abilities. Very often, fear on horseback paralyzes us and prevents us from considering our abilities with lucidity and objectivity. So, we believe we are not up to it, we don't feel at the level... In short, we lose self-confidence.

          Self-confidence is being aware of your abilities. With this awareness, you will put yourself into action.

          Marie Caucanas

          Marie points out that the word "confidence" comes from the word "trust", in which there is "proud", which refers to the notion of reliability. So to have confidence is to be convinced of the reliability of the environment, of a situation, of a person.

          Self-confidence is the reliability of oneself towards oneself.

          Marie Caucanas

          Why is having confidence on horseback essential?

          Self-confidence, the driving force behind the rider's actions

          Marie explains that self-confidence also includes a notion of movement. It allows us to move on to practiceto get into put into action. Conversely, the loss of confidence in ourselves paralyzes us...

          Self-confidence is an important notion for the rider
          first of all because it allows him, when he is in action on horseback
          not to undergo but toundertake.

          Marie Caucanas
          Marie-Ann Sullivan at Jump Bost 2022

          Self-confidence also makes it possible to adapt : to undertake an action but also to adapt it, to regulate. It is because I have confidence in myself that I dare to intervene on my horse, for example by taking a clear decision when approaching an obstacle. 

          Be the leader of your horse

          This decision making is very important for the horse, which needs to be guided. If the rider is absentIf the rider is absent, the horse will be disturbed, he will be waiting for clearer instructions.

          Self-confidence, the key to performance

          As mentioned above, lack of self-confidence means not being aware of one's abilities. However, by dint of doubting, the brain integrates our fears as realities. Often, it is precisely because we doubt that we are going to refuse on the bidet... that we refuse on the bidet! This is why lack of confidence necessarily leads to slowing down of the progressand even to the absence of performance.

          Fear on horseback and loss of confidence: what are the causes?

          Internal factors

          Marie explains that the lack of self-confidence can first be linked to internal factorsintrinsic factors, specific to the person's psychological structure. Let's take the example of a rider who is used to performing well in competitions, who is, in general, quite regular. When he starts to have a succession of small failures, it is at this moment that the rider can start to question himself and his skills. He will doubt himself in terms of his technical abilities in particular. This leads to a loss of self-confidence.

          Lou Fontanel after a fall,
          protected by her SAFEFIT airbag

          External factors

          But a lack of self-confidence can also be explained by external factors such as the environment or the environment - i.e. elements that do not affect the person from the inside. If, for example, the people around you constantly emphasize the negative, this can affect your self-confidence.

          Another external factor that can affect self-confidence is the permeability to the gaze of others. If the look of others has an impact on us and, in addition, we begin to interpret the thought that others have of us, it can affect self-confidence.

          Moreover, self-confidence is often built during childhood, when one builds one's "psychic backbone" as Marie says. If the environment, which is supposed to be protective and benevolent, did not value the child, made him feel that he was not capable, he can integrate this idea in him. 

          Finally, if you have negative experiences that follow one another, this can have an impact on self-confidence. But in general, we find this self-confidence because we have known it before.

          Rose Gaezau wearing SAFEFIT

          3 tips to (re)gain confidence on horseback

          Become aware of your skills

          In order to reaffirm your self-confidence and keep fear and doubts at bay, you must become aware of your assets. Our resources are often much more numerous than we think! To do this, take a paper and a pen, and and make a list of all your technical technical and cognitive skills. Technical, that is to say your purely equestrian skills. For example, "I am stable on an isolated obstacle at 80cm" or "I know how to adapt my balance to adjust my distance in a line". Cognitive skills are your mental skills. It could be "I don't give up even when I'm in a difficult situation" or "I can breathe well throughout my turn".

          We are all capable of doing something.
          We must be aware of this and value it.

          Marie Caucanas

          Sometimes, we lack so much self-confidence that nothing comes and the page remains blank. In this case, the best advice is to get help. Call on your coach A coach who will be able to enlighten you, with a fair and objective look at your abilities. 

          It is relevant to do skills assessment regularly: this way, you will gain confidence in your strengths and see your ability to progress. Marie also advises you to to set goals for yourself when you are going up. It is necessary to "set intermediate objectives that show a progression but that are achievable. Each goal that is achieved and well executed should also be highlighted". To learn more about this point, you can consult my video on goal setting.

          Finally, Marie comes back to the essential role of the external environment in the rider's valorization: "It's also up to the coach to make the rider aware that he has done the exercise perfectly, and not to normalize something that is a success, even a small success" .

          The internal discourse

          Marie also advises using internal discourse, which allows "us to remind ourselves of our skills, our abilities to do this or that action. It must be a real internal dialogue, based on real facts. The fact of becoming aware of it and creating this internal dialogue will (re)create circuits at the neuronal level, which will constitute, by the awareness, a new learning of what we know how to do".

          For this, you can use positive affirmations. It will be a question of repeating to you benevolent sentences towards yourself. Do it regularly to be able to integrate this positive internal speech. For example, you can post your positive affirmations in a place where you will read them every day.

          The airbag vest: a confidence booster!

          There's no doubt about it: wearing an airbag gives you wings 🚀

          "I think there's a big part of psychology. I feel like I ride better with it, because I'm less afraid so I maybe take a little more risk. So it's an advantage in every way!"

          Laura Rozier

          For Marie, the airbag acts like a second skin. It has this role of protective envelope, technical but also symbolic. It allows the rider to free himself from the fear, not only of falling but also of hurting himself. 

          Laura Rozier wearing the SAFEFIT Navy

          This also allows the rider, freed from psychological annoyances, to concentrate on concentrate on on the technical aspects.

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          The airbag will free your riding,
          it will free your skills that you will be able to put into action.
          So you will have confidence in yourself and ride better.

          Marie Caucanas

          So, tempted to boost your confidence on horseback?

          By Chloé Valentin-Granchet
          Riding teacher, certified in mental preparation for sports

          To go further... 

          On the mental preparation of the rider: 

          On the mental preparation of the athlete in general: