How To: Reciprocate confidence

Confidence takes years to build and only seconds to crush. Lila Gendal shares some tips for getting it–and keeping it.

From Lila:

Welcome again to another “How Tofrom Horse Nation! Today I want to explore the idea of confidence, both from a rider’s perspective as well as the horse’s perspective, and how the two are inherently linked.

Confidence is a delicate and fragile quality that takes years to build and only seconds to crumble. From a rider’s perspective, confidence seems to have a lot to do with your history as a rider and your personality type. For the less than confident rider, or for the rider who wants tips on gaining confidence while in the saddle, here you go!

  • 1)       Ride “GOOD” horses.

What are we talking about here? We all have ideas about what the perfect horse is, or what our perfect horse should be like. Sometimes we need horses that we would never even look twice at because they are not flashy, or not fancy movers, or not 5-foot jumpers. Sometimes we need to be realistic and find a horse that makes us feel confident and comfortable–regardless of looks.

  • 2)     Make it simple.

Have you ever witnessed riders that are attempting to do something that is beyond their level? Have you ever seen a kid flying around cross-country at Mach 10 with a horse that is completely out of control? If you are not the most confident rider in the world, don’t put yourself in vulnerable situations. If you are terrified of jumping 2’9”, then try jumping tiny cross rails instead. Make things simple by doing things you can succeed at.

  • 3)     Ride a horse that gives you confidence.

Why would you ride a horse that makes you scared, nervous, or gives you bad riding habits’? Sometimes we don’t even know that we are terrified of a certain horse until we get on another horse that makes us feel at ease. Find a horse that makes you feel safe and a horse that you can trust.


Now let’s look at the horse that lacks confidence. With a horse that has very little confidence, the rider must be able to pick up the slack and provide his or her horse with a confident and encouraging ride. Horses that do not have confidence really should not be paired with riders that lack confidence. This scenario can only lead towards unfortunate outcomes. If we agree that it’s best when a confident and experienced rider is paired with a less than confident horse, then we can explore the following tips for building your horse’s confidence.

  • 1)     Again–Make things simple!

If you have a horse that worries about jumping larger fences, then it only makes sense to start jumping little fences frequently to build your horse back up. Don’t do things your horse CAN’T do, but rather, do things he CAN do.

  • 2)     Stay calm.

If your horse is worried, anxious, upset, etc., then don’t add fuel to the fire by getting after your horse. If your horse is nervous, stay cool, calm and relaxed. Your horse needs you to show him the way.

  • 3)     Be realistic.

The realism I am referring to here revolves around being truthful to yourself. If you have a horse that will not settle or will never jump a fence you point him or her at, maybe your horse needs a new home, or a new owner. Also, be realistic about what you can do for your horse as a trainer. If there is someone else better for the job at training your insecure horse, then be realistic and make a change.

Don’t forget, confidence takes years to gain, and only seconds to crush. If you are a rider that radiates self-reliance, then pass your confidence onto a much needed horse. Likewise, if there is a horse out there that will nonchalantly pack you around and give you self-assurance, then find get a horse like that. Reciprocating confidence is one of the best kept secrets in the horse world, and one of the most powerful tools that will help lead you and your horse towards success!



About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.


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