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Riders often criticise themselves when things don’t go to plan and many others frequently doubt their ability. Wondering if they’re doing their horse justice, if they’re making the people who support them proud, if they’re really a good enough rider to achieve their goals. Often this leads to perfectionism, overthinking, over-riding or freezing. Does this sound familiar?
If so, you’re not alone. This is a more common problem than you might think. Most of the riders I work with struggle with self-belief and find it difficult to believe in themselves. So what causes it? Here are the most common causes I’ve discovered in my 1:1 work with riders and how to overcome them.

Taking too much responsibility
Riders often blame themselves when something doesn’t go to plan, absolving the horse of all responsibility. But let’s not forget, horses have their own minds, motivations and we don’t always know when something isn’t right with our horse. So something a rider blames themselves for may actually be an issue with the horse.
When this happens over a period of time, it damages the rider’s self-belief which impacts on their riding. Being able to see situations from a different perspective is important so that you don’t simply default to thinking “it’s my fault.” Think about what else could be going on. Take a balanced view of the situation. Consider what you can do to move forward rather than focusing on what went wrong. Focus on learning from the situation, rather than beating yourself up. Remember a negative mind cannot produce positive outcomes!

Negative labels
Riders often give themselves a negative label like “I’m a nervous rider” or “I’m a negative person.”
Remember that what you do (behaviour) and who you are (identity) are different. The problem is that when you consistently behave in a particular way – for instance feeling nervous each time you compete or ride – you start to believe that it’s part of who you are. But it’s not. It’s just a habit. And like all other habits, it can be broken down and a new, more positive and empowering one put in its place.

Focusing on the negatives
It’s impossible to sustain a good level of self-belief if you’re always focusing on what went wrong rather than on what is going well. Being able to see beyond setbacks and reflect on what you can learn and improve on is key to overcoming this.

Worrying about what others think
Whilst it’s natural to want validation and recognition from others, it’s important to balance external feedback with internal feedback. If you’re too heavily reliant on external feedback, it means you place your self-belief and self-worth in the hands of others. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. Someone else’s opinion of you, particularly if they don’t know you or your horse very well, is unlikely to be accurate. And they may well have an agenda of their own.
Start reflecting on the things you do well as a rider. Write them down somewhere or put them on your phone so you can read them every day. Remind yourself about the positives. This will help you start to grow some self-belief so that you’re less reliant on external feedback and more able to feel good about yourself through your positive beliefs.
If you’d like to get help with rebuilding your self-belief and banishing self-doubt, then you can book an initial consultation with Helen to discuss your goals, the problems you’re experiencing at the moment and how Helen can help. To book contact Helen here.