Reasons You’re Stuck in a Mental Block as an Equestrian

Every equestrian will face a mental block throughout their equestrian career, but sometimes getting to the bottom of the mental block is the real challenge. Here are Reasons You’re Stuck in a Mental Block as an Equestrian!

At the ripe age of thirteen I brought home my first horse, Legend. I was overflowing with excitement and pride for our potential, so much so that I never even considered the possibility of getting hurt or facing roadblocks – which was to my demise.

Nearly three months into ownership, one snowy afternoon ride led to my very first mental block; that is, I took a humbling trip to the ground, and after that, developed a fear of cantering. Being a young and green rider – without a trainer at the time – I didn’t canter for about six months.

The following July is when I decided to count to three and then ask for the canter: “One… two… three… three and a half…” This sequence probably lasted most of the ride, however, I eventually asked for it. You know what happened? Nothing. But in your mind, you might’ve jumped straight to the worst case scenario: he sent her to the moon, or, he reared and fell back onto her, etc. etc.

Reasons you're stuck in a mental block as an equestrian

Thereupon that one canter, I never had another major mental block with Legend. In fact, I loved to canter him. And luckily, this is achievable for you to… we just need to get to the bottom of it first! So here are reasons that you’re stuck in a mental block as an equestrian!

Watching fails and falls

We all love to see it: a graceful buck resulting in a rider soaring or a rotational fall after a single bad stride. And though amusing, we never take into account how much it’s affecting our everyday riding. If your horse starts to tense and speed up, it’s apparent that they’re about to bolt. But a personal one for me is mounting bareback (so the likelihood of eating dirt is significantly higher). Why? Because that’s what we see on TikTok and YouTube.

As you’re riding, you might start to notice these thoughts but over and above that could be actual flashbacks of the fails and falls you were watching. After you start to just swipe past, you might find that the worst-case-scenario is in your head because it was on your screen.

Check out: How to Boost Your Confidence as an Equestrian!

Not expanding your routine

Routines are all too common for equestrians… we go to the barn, grab the horse, groom, hop on, hop off, and so on. But with a mental block, your fears might be a result of this routine.

Perhaps you always lunge in the same corner, but your horse tends to spook in the opposite one, or you don’t whip out the shampoo and conditioner because said horse is a little wiggly in the wash stall. These might not be things you think to work on, however, you avoid them just the same.

Next time you’re out at the barn, try to do something with your horse that makes you just a little uncomfortable – that you do tend to avoid. Gaining confidence in all areas of horsemanship, not just in the saddle, is crucial. You might even find your courage start to grow ; )

Pondering the fear

Just as watching riding fails can influence fear, so can your mind. Personally, through the couple of major mental blocks I’ve had as an equestrian, I would find myself sitting on the couch thinking about a scare I had the other day or even what if my incoming ride would result in a hospital visit.

Fear breeds fear. The more you think about something, the more it’s going to devour the thoughts that otherwise wouldn’t have been so ill-willed.

The next time you too, are sitting on the couch pondering the “what if’s”, just stop cold turkey. Don’t even think about ponies or the barn… change your thoughts to something else entirely. If these thoughts come about while riding, replace it with a positive note like, “I am going to clear this jump.”

At the end of the day, you are capable of controlling your fears. You just have to be conscience and proactive about bringing it to an end!

Not gaining confidence in the basics

This might resonate with expanding your routine, but let’s put a little more emphasis on the basics. When one goes through a mental block, it’s usually founded on low self-trust: “There’s no way I could sit that buck.” When in reality, people can do spectacular things when faced with trials.

Going back to the basics is going to be your first step in gaining back your self-trust. Maybe you couldn’t sit that buck last go ’round, but losing your stirrups for a few days might aid in a stickier seat.

One could even argue to go further into the basics – do you trust your horse when leading or standing at the cross-ties? Do you trust yourself enough to hold a horse for the farrier (can you handle the wiggles)? This isn’t to scold or make anyone feel bad about their confidence level, however, when you trust horses on the ground, it’s going to make it a lot easier to trust them in the saddle.

Check out: Handling a Fresh Horse: The Ultimate Guide

Someone is holding you back

Alas, sometimes our confidence is rooted in how others perceive us. Or even how others treat us. An equestrian can try every trick in the book to gain confidence, but at the end of the day, if your trainer doesn’t believe in you then you’ll never be able to progress.

That being said, it isn’t always an issue of belief. It could be a variety of reasons such as you’ve surpassed their expertise or you don’t learn how they teach. Try expanding your horizon a bit… do a trial run with someone else and see if that makes an impact.

Furthermore, someone holding you back is not limited to a trainer – it could be barn mates or even a horse. Looking for a positive environment where people encourage and celebrate your growth is so important for every equestrian!

Check out: How to Overcome Fear as an Equestrian

Laura Elsie Grace on confidence
All in all…

there are quite a few different tactics for overcoming fear, but getting to the bottom of said fear is a priority. And hey, it’s 100% normal for equestrians to face mental blocks here and there! So here’s a little roundup of reasons you’re stuck in a mental block as an equestrian:

  • Watching fails and falls
  • Not expanding your routine
  • Pondering the fear
  • Not gaining confidence in the basics
  • Someone is holding you back

Tell me, have you ever had a mental block? How did you overcome it? Are you experiencing one right now? Let me know in the comments!

All the best,

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