A Crisis in Confidence

Of all the pages I’ve written for this site this is the hardest. Even now I find it difficult to talk about losing my confidence with horse riding. I’m self conscious and ashamed – all of which are ridiculous. If it’s happening to you, here’s how I beat the fear and regained my confidence.

I learned to ride as an adult and as I got better, my confidence soared. I would ride anything and everything and was known for being prepared to sit on the ones that others didn’t like, the fiestier the better, the quirkier the more interesting. I eventually saved enough money to buy a beautiful mare, newly backed and about 16.2. I adored her more than anything.

To cut a long story short we had a great time, hacked, I taught her to canter and to jump – all was brilliant. One day out of the blue, whilst I was schooling her something spooked her and she bolted straight across a massive show jumping arena, veering round numerous jumps, heading straight to the perimeter fence – for one awful moment I was bothered she was going to clear the 5 and a half foot fence straight onto concrete, but when we came to it she just stopped. I flew straight over her head, landing on my head on the concrete. It was a busy livery and competition yard and everyone came running out screaming at me to stay still. I was VERY lucky – apart from some nasty bruises and a bit of concussion I was ok – my confidence however was shattered.

I’d still get back on but I’d sit there shaking and as for cantering – I just had a complete mental block.

Then the vultures started circling – those people on yards who you hoped were your friends but seem to take great pleasure in kicking you when you’re down and making you feel more and more inadequate. At the same time my youngster was continuing to grow and develop, I was no longer keeping up with her or helping her schooling – she was an amazing horse. After months of trying to rebuild myself I took the heartbreaking decision to sell her. This is the first key in regaining your confidence – you need to be sure you have the right horse to do it with.

Sadly, although I’d recognised the horse wasn’t right to regain my confidence, I made the wrong choice with the next one! I bought him too soon after selling her to help with the grief. He was a bit of a neglect case that I felt sorry for and when I got him fit and healthy was a proper physco – 3 separate instructors told me to get rid or he was going to kill someone. Confidence still no better.

Still looking for the right horse, I was trying one out and having such an amazing time that I was jumping again. Everything seemed to be going well, we raised the jump height a little and I chose not to change the horses paces, I wanted to test what she’d do unguided – we misjudged it and stupidly I put my arm out when falling. I snapped my elbow in two. The first and only time I’ve fallen off jumping. Confidence now at an all time low – I’d been cantering and broken my arm!

After the arm had healed, I was nearly beaten, but I decided to give it one last go and bought a Connemara which had been recommended to me. I tried him twice with my instructor and although he was young and green and bent like a banana he somehow made me feel safe. Years later we’re still together and I would never ever sell him.

Now I had to rebuild my confidence. For an entire year I wouldn’t canter him, but slowly my confidence in him grew and one day I just went for it. He was a little shocked, but did it and it felt amazing. Once I’d broken that hurdle, I just had to build on it. Every time we exercised I did a little more and we’ve never looked back. He can be a pig at times, will buck for England and is scared of silly things like buckets, but I truly believe we were destined to be together. We go out and compete in dressage and showing, hack, have loads of fun – which is what horse riding should be. He isn’t a world beater, but I love him to death.

The original mare has gone to a home where she hunts, events and wins shed loads of competitions – she beat me the other year. I still miss her but she’s in the right home with the right person for the boundless talent she has. My confidence was shattered when her abilities, strength and size was soaring. She stands at over 17 hands now – I’m still barely 5ft tall. It was probably never going to work.

Many would have thrown the towel in but I love horses and I’m glad I kept going. Since all this happened it seems I’m not on my own. The really brave people have told me of similar experiences they’ve had where they’ve felt knocked to pieces and totally incapable of doing something that used to come so naturally. If you’re going through something like this I hope you’ve found my story helpful. You are not on your own and if you want to keep going you will get there.

My top tips would be: Find the right horse, don’t give up, take your time and once you’ve started to feel the confidence coming back, make sure you build on it each time you ride. Your sessions won’t always go well, but make sure you end on a positive.


  • Ladycat

    When I first had my horse I had her on loan as I wasn’t very confident. I was a beginner and I wasn’t sure if she was the one for me as I wanted something ‘bombproof’ (ha!). Well it got to a point where I thought I am going to have to stop riding her or sort this out. So I started weekly riding lessons and I did a confident hacking cd in hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapy worked instantly for me – after about a week I was noticeably more confident and over the weeks I became more and more confident. The lessons helped me in the long stretch with my balance and general riding ability, I am still having lessons and I went on to buy the horse. I am so glad that I did we are a real team and have a great connection. I don’t listen to the cd anymore as I don’t feel I need to at the moment (unless I want to get a really good nights sleep!) but we have started clicker training together which has also helped to build a tremendous trust between us and is great fun. This is also a great confidence builder as the work is all started from the ground and at a safe level where you are both confident. Its been a wonderful journey and we are still learning so much together. – Cat

  • Kiki

    Thanks for your story! I am glad I have found. I myself have been riding for about 14 years now, on and off. And for the past years I always seemed to find the horses with the most problems. Bucking, rearing, bolting – you name it.The worst falls I had are years back and nothing really ever happened so I don’t have anything to hold up against it. It just seemed that each horse I tried to ride (I felt sorry for the most too, neglected and all that)took a little more away from my confidence. Now I started riding again and I am with a real trooper. He is 7 years young, not done much schooling but seems to be a good soul. The first time I rode him he threw a little buck, I told him to stop and he hasnt done anything like that since. So I thought hey this is great. Then the other day I was riding a friends youngster and again everything seemed to go really well until she started bolting around the schooling arena, for about 15 laps and I couldnt do anything to stop her. As you I genuinely thought she is going to jump the fence. Thankfully she didnt and somehow I managed to stopped her. Apparently she has never done this before. I was devastated and exhausted and just felt like crying. Now back on the 7year old I didn’t want it to affect me – but today we went out for a hack for the first time and I felt so insecure. I thought he’d bolt any minute. We did canter and it went actually well but after that I just wanted to go home. I used to love all those things, galloping on the fields for 100’s of meters, but right now it seems a life time away. I will find myself a good instructor who is hopefully able to help me over my fears! Reading your story did really help me though and I hope I can one day say the same 🙂

    • admin

      I’m so glad you found this helpful. I know just where you are coming from – you are not alone. If it’s any comfort at the moment I’m recovering from a broken wrist and hand. 4 weeks ago I fell of a youngster I’m currently backing, not really her or my fault, just one of those things. Today I rode for the first time since the accident. I rode my normal horse who I know like the back of my hand, but I also got back on the youngster. Everything went well but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been nervous – we’re all human after all. Definitely get a supportive instructor and just keep at it!

  • Victoria Giles

    I am so p,eased I found your story. I bought my first horse last January. He really is a super boy who is generally calm and safe, but 5 weeks ago whilst galloping I fell off and broke my collarbone. I am a mum of 4 boys and my mum’s first reaction was… Sell the horse. I love riding and will not sell him. I rode for the first time on Sunday and just did some light schooling. Today I hacked out with a a friend for the first time and was sooooo nervous. He was a little jumpy, probably due to my nerves, and we encountered every possible scary thing from cows, tractors and milk tankers but we made it home safely. I still feel so nervous but it is great to know that I am not alone. Small steps and I know my confidence will gradually begin to return. Oh and boy am I stiff!!!!!! X

    • admin

      Hi Victoria – thanks for sharing this….. my parents said exactly the same thing when I broke my wrist and hand this summer. I know it’s because they love me but it tends to make me bristle somewhat. Keep it up – it will work itself out.

  • Jane Dallas

    I loved reading your experiences and it’s so helpful and comforting to know other experienced riders do indeed suffer a confidence crisis at times. I find as I get older (I am nearing 50 and a mum of 3) I am increasingly aware of what could always happen while riding. I am particularly fond of hacking and for the past 8 months have been sharing a lovely schoolmaster of 20 years young who is exceptional in the school but not too confident out hacking. This has taken its toll on my confidence as he hates tractors and lorries with a vengeance and the only thing that I can do to get him past these is to quickly jump off and be right next to his face where he quickly then trusts me to get him past these “monsters” unscathed. I tried staying mounted the other day when a lorry shot past us (after glaring at me when my friend signalled for him to slow down) and my horse spun round straight into his path. His rump must have been only an inch away from the side of the lorry as it sped by. My accompanying friend shouted out in alarm. The only stretch of road I have to ride on is just 200 yards but we have no way of avoiding it and now I tense up everytime I ride along it – no matter which horse I am riding on, This weekend I am trying out a lovely 11year old happy hacker with the intention of buying if he is suitable but do not want to relay my nervousness to him. This will be my first horse after 40 years of riding!! A dream come true you could say. But, as my confidence has been truly knocked, I am also full of apprehension. Reading about your experiences and others who have had similar is more vauable than I can express.

  • Louise chapuis

    I loved reading all your stories. I have been riding for many years and fallen off numerous times but fell off in October and had a double break and triple fracture to the numerous bone at my shoulder. It was such a silly fall going into canter and I sadly missed the team jumping competition the next day thatI had been so looking forward to. I am back riding again and my Horse is such a lovely boy but I do find that I have totally lost my confidence. I even went on a 2 day confidence riding course which was amazing but as soon as I got back the snow came and I haven’t ridden since although I do go up and spend quality time at the yard with my horse. I am very anxious about schooling and my heart is in my mouth when hacking with friends, even though my horse doesn’t out a hoof wrong it’s just in me now. I am 52 years old and have been riding for 45 years but my fall really shook me up. I have even thought about selling and giving up but I love my horse so much I am willing to take it really slowly, even go back to basics again, and build up that confidence. My friends have been amazing and I definitely think helps. I really find reading all your stories helps, I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  • OverMyHead

    Hi, I’m glad I’ve found this as its stopped me feeling so stupid and alone in my situation!. I bred my own horse who is actually bigger than I would usually buy for myself, me being just 5ft and him currently standing at 16’2 as a 5 year old. At the beginning of last summer he bolted with me and bronked repeatedly, and I fell off onto a wooden mounting block. Due to my injuries I was unable to ride for a couple of months after this. I have been riding for 20 years but now my confidence in our outside arena is shattered on him. I’m fine hacking and riding in the inside school, but as soon as I get on outside my heart begins to race, i tense up, and he immediately starts to misbehave because he can sense my fear. I know that alot of people think i should sell him and get something easier, as he is a handful, but I love him and I know that if i can overcome this, I will have a lot of fun with this horse… I’ve just got to find a way through it…

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