I’ve been pondering confidence recently, including how important it is, how easily it is lost, and how difficult it can be to regain. One of the things that prompted my ponderings about confidence was an article by Linda Parelli called “The Science of Confidence.” In it, Parelli says, “Somehow we think that getting on and staying on will make the fear go away, or it will build confidence. But it doesn’t. Fear builds by staying in the place where you feel it. ” (1) I highly recommend reading the whole article; the link is below in the notes.
Another thing that has prompted my ponderings about confidence has been riding my Norwegian Fjord Horse Torrin. We’ve been together for twelve years, and our primary activities have been working in harness. Recently, though, we’ve been doing a lot of riding, which for us looks like rides on the county road or through the woods where we’re more likely to see moose than anything else. I often ride Torrin with just a bareback pad and stirrups, but of late I’ve dispensed with that and have ridden bareback. I’ve never had a bit in his mouth for trail rides; just a halter and lead rope tied up into reins.
I’ve been getting him in shape slowly after some time off, so we started out walking for a couple of miles, then after a few weeks I added in some trotting. Last month I experimented, very briefly, with cantering bareback. I’ve always found cantering on the edge of scary, so it was a big deal for me to enjoy it. We began doing it more and for longer, and now it feels fun. Somehow I think doing it bareback has made a difference; I’m not worried about keeping my feet in the stirrups and can just relax and go with Torrin’s movement.
In her article, Parelli says, “Just like horses, you have to be able to get away and then re-approach the situation as often as it takes until you feel nothing. When you do this, the sensations of fear truly do magically subside. It’s the exact same principle as the Friendly Game with horses: approach and retreat, with retreat being the most important part.” Being able to approach cantering and then retreat from it the past few months has allowed me to feel much more comfortable than I ever have before.
The ‘woods loop’ on our place is a ½ mile trail through a pine forest. This winter three trees blew down over the trail. Torrin and I have been picking our way over them, but in the past week or so, we’ve started jumping them. The jumps are only about 15” high, but jumping is something relatively new to me. I have found that I enjoy jumping bareback because I don’t lose my stirrups!
In her article, Parelli says, “Confidence is…Doing whatever it takes to preserve your confidence; there’s nothing more important… not even life. Because when you’re not confident you’re living in fear and what kind of life is that when horses are your life, when horses are your dream? Confidence is so easily lost, so work to not lose it.” I’m very appreciative of Torrin taking such good care of me so that my confidence with cantering and jumping is growing. When it comes time to canter and jump my Fells, many of whom are very athletic, I’ll be much better able to stay with them.
(1) Parelli, Linda. “The Science of Confidence,” Savvy Times, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, October 2005, or http://www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/horse-training-tips-confidence-with-horses/?utm_source=Parelli+Natural+Horsemanship+List&utm_campaign=6037d2cd15-Parelli_Connection_4_17_12&utm_medium=email
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012