Confidence comes when you know you’re capable to complete a task or have mastery over a skill. With riding, your skill is your physical ability to stay seated, to guide your horse, to remain in position during a maneuver, and to be a partner to your horse.
Along with the physical benefits that come from exercise, there are several other ways that developing your personal fitness can positively influence your self-assuredness when you ride.
You feel capable. With any new program, until you actually complete the task, you’re nervous and unsure whether you can even do it. It’s this self-doubt that causes you to think you’re not capable of completing a tough workout or successfully asking for a flying lead-change for example.
In the gym, as you take on and accomplish increasingly difficult workouts, you realize that you’re more capable than you think you are. Success starts to quiet those inner self-doubt demons. You’ll learn that you don’t know if you can do something until you try, and consequently, you’ll be more daring. You’ll start to challenge yourself in and out of the saddle.
You practice more. Skill comes with repetition. The more you practice a lead departure, or a push-up, the better you get at it. When you’re fit, you can practice (or ride) longer and more frequently because you have the strength and stamina to do so. Instead of ride once or twice per week, you can saddle up two, three, or four times per week. This increased saddle time allows you to practice your skills more frequently, and it improves your horse’s fitness.
You’ll feel more prepared when you go to a show or pack up for a trail ride because you’ve spent the time developing your ability and your horse’s fitness. When you’re prepared, you’re more confident.
You stay focused. You may be familiar with the feeling of hitting a mental wall in your riding. Typically it comes as you learn or practice a new skill in a lesson or by yourself, or when you try to stay sharp through a long event. You become flustered, agitated, or just tired. Like riding, exercise, and especially workouts that require you to learn a new movement or challenge your comfort zone, builds your mental toughness. You learn to remain calm, rational, and focused in uncomfortable situations or when you’re tired.
Developing your mental toughness in the gym means that when you get in the saddle, you know you can stay calm and focused as you approach any riding challenge.
You are comfortable. Exercise changes your body composition. More muscle means you’re stronger, leaner, and feel less all-over-the-place as you ride (think monkey on a border collie!). When you know you’re in control of your body, you don’t question whether or not you’ll be able to stay seated during a maneuver, or if you’ll look like you’re all over the place as you complete your pattern. Oftentimes, our embarrassment over what others might think can hold us back from good riding. When you know your riding looks good----you’ll be more confident. And, there’s nothing wrong with that!
Working out doesn't have to mean a trip to the gym - there's an online fitness program designed for equestrians full of at-home workouts! Check it out here!