Hi, I’m Katie and as I’m doing a guest blog I thought I’d do a really quick introduction before I give you my three tips to being a more confident rider.
I started my blog Sticks_N_Pones to document my passion for showjumping and my struggle with nerves. Like so many riders I had suffered a number of bad falls that had not only taken my confidence but had stolen my love for the sport. I wanted to write about developing real techniques and strategies that helped me. I didn’t want to be stuck in the terrified rut I was in and I wanted to find other people that felt the same as me. When we go to competitions everyone else seems to be so composed, so together. It made me feel even more out of my depth. Starting my blog allowed me to talk to other riders with similar problems and it helped give me perspective and made me feel less alone.
So without further ado, I give you my 3 top tips.
1. Don’t settle for being a nervous rider.
If you were having trouble with keeping your lower leg still you wouldn’t resign yourself to being a rider with a bad lower leg, you’d focus on it and practice it until you had mastered it. The same is true with nerves. People are quick to call themselves nervous while doing nothing to combat it. I won’t allow myself to say I’m a nervous rider. I am struggling with nerves right now but this isn’t forever. I’ll work until I can manage my nerves the same way I would with any riding problem. For a while, I actually stopped having lessons and stopped working as hard on my riding and I shifted my attention to improving my mental focus. My reasoning was, at that point in time, my head was causing me far more trouble than my riding was.
2. Find what works for you and keep a “cheat sheet”.
I have trawled the internet for helpful tips and techniques that calm me down when I feel nerves overtaking. I’ve read a few sports psychology books, found some motivational phrases and even got some videos of riders I admire. I suggest once you’ve found the things that work for you, you either screenshot them, write them in a diary or on flash cards and carry them with you. This has been invaluable for me. At first every single competition I went to, almost the entire journey would be spent reading and rereading my notes. Gradually I need them less and less but last weekend I was jumping the biggest class I’ve ever done and I felt myself reaching for the reassurance they offer me. It not only helps redirect your brain from the nervous chatter but it gives you something useful to focus on.
3. Set a goal, then break it down into steps.
My end goal was 1.30m, I set this when I was sitting on a bucket crying about jumping 90cm (true story.) The result of this was I never felt proud of myself or felt like I’d accomplished anything because I was always a million miles away from where I wanted to be. If I came out having jumped a fantastic round at 90cm I would immediately say, “but it’s only 90, these horses should be doing so much more.” It was my long-suffering husband that told me something he’d heard on one of the millions of triathlon podcasts he listens to. He said if you only have an end goal, you will feel like you are failing until you’ve achieved it, this often leaves you demoralised and demotivated. Instead have an end goal but set yourself mini goals to help you on your journey. This has been fantastic for me and I have felt proud of crossing off my first mini goal which was to jump newcomers.
I really hope these tips are useful and help you get out and do the sport we love with even more passion.
Be fabulous. Katie xx