Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
Find Out Your Confidence Level as a Horseback Rider
I put the quiz "How Confident of a Horseback Rider Are You?" together in order to help give riders a rough idea of where they stand as a rider. After taking the quiz and determining your riding-confidence level, I talk about some important steps for improving your skill.
Keep in mind that there is no shame in needing to work on your confidence. Horses are big and strong, and nobody would blame you for being intimidated by them. Acknowledging where you stand with your confidence as a rider will help you to become more successful.
Take the Quiz: How Confident of a Rider Are You?
1. You find out that a friend has a horse boarded nearby that is not getting much use. What do you do?
a) Call and find out more information about the horse immediately.
b) Call your instructor and ask if they approve of you taking advantage of an opportunity like this to get some extra riding in.
c) Call and schedule a test ride.
2. When you arrive at the barn for your lesson, your usual horse's name isn't next to your name on the board. What do you do?
a) Excitedly go look for the horse you are assigned to and ask other riders about it.
b) Try and convince your instructor to give you the horse you are used to but ride the assigned horse anyway.
c) Tell the instructor that you suddenly aren't feeling well and not up to riding.
3. Your instructor sends out an email that says she is on vacation for the next two weeks. The other instructor who you have seen at the barn but never ridden with is covering for her. What do you do?
a) Excitedly tell everyone you know that you are going to get to try out a new instructor and aren't going to have to miss lessons while your instructor is on vacation.
b) Email her back and tell her that you hope she has a great time and you will wait for her to get back for your next lessons.
c) Email her back and say thanks for letting you know and that you will be there. When the time comes, you have too much time to sit around and think about it and get nervous, so you call and cancel at the last minute.
4. You know your horse always spooks at a certain spot in the riding ring. What do you do?
a) Never ride near that spot. If that is the only end of the ring available, you won't ride.
b) Ride wherever you feel like riding! Your horse will just have to get over it.
c) Ask your friend if you can follow them and their horse past the scary spot a few times to practice.
5. When you get to the farm, it is a warm, sunny, and calm day. By the time you do your chores and get tacked up, it is cloudy and gusting very high winds. All the horses seem tense and nervous. What do you do?
a) Get on and ride as planned—you don't worry about your horse spooking at the wind.
b) Tack up your horse, but he spooks as you are leading him out, so you lead him right back in and untack him.
c) You get on and ride as you normally would, just calmly aware that your horse may be bothered by the change in the weather.
6. For some reason, there are a lot more people sitting at the ring watching lessons today than usual. What do you do?
a) You aren't bothered by the audience and ride as you always do.
b) Try to ride your horse as far away from the people and the part of the fence they are standing close to. You ride nervously because you feel like you are being scrutinized.
c) You ride better than ever with the pressure of people watching you.
7. When you go on a trip, you see a sign that advertises trail rides, but they are in Western saddles and you have never ridden Western before. What do you do?
a) Sign up right away. You know Western saddles will be way more comfortable than a long ride.
b) Don't go—you are an English rider, not Western.
c) Decide to go and give it a try, even though you are nervous about the different tack.
8. Your instructor offers to trailer you and your horse to another farm to school in a new environment in order to prepare for a show. What do you do?
a) You sort of want to go, but the thought scares you, so you talk yourself out of it.
b) You jump on the opportunity, sign up, and count down the days.
c) Sign up and sort of look forward to it because you know it's good practice, but are very nervous about it.
9. Your horse was getting a little strong on a jump course, and you just jumped an "okay" course. Your instructor asks you if you want to try it again or call it a day. What do you do?
a) Call it a day—your arms are tired and the "speed-racer" is making you nervous.
b) Give it another shot—you would never stop with just "okay."
c) Explain to your instructor that you are nervous, but really want to try it again. You ask them for any extra input and try it again.
10. Your friend has two horses and asks you if you want to ride with her. She offers to let you ride her second horse. What do you do?
a) Politely decline—you don't ride horses that you have never ridden before without your trainer.
b) Jump at the chance—you have always wanted to ride that horse.
c) Ask her if you can watch her ride the horse first (just in case), and then you will get on.
11. You fall off in your lesson when your horse trips but you get back on. Then what do you do:
a) Tense up, but grit your teeth and finish the lesson.
b) Laugh at yourself, acknowledge that it was just a silly accident, and get on with it.
c) Pretend that you are hurt so your trainer won't make you get back on.
Quiz Results: Tally Up Your Points
Here you will find the number of points that you should give yourself for each answer that you chose in the quiz. In the end, add up your total number of points!
So, How Confident Are You?
If you scored 10 points and under, you should definitely set a goal to work on your confidence level in the upcoming year. Try to identify what it is that makes you nervous, and then try and find exercises to help build your confidence in those areas. If you aren't sure, ask a friend with horse experience, or even better, your riding instructor.
Advice: If you are struggling with confidence, you most definitely need to discuss it with your instructor. (Sometimes students are nervous or scared but hide it from us pretty well.) Be open and honest with your instructor about your confidence and let him or her know you want to focus on confidence-building activities.
If you scored 10–20 points, you are well on your way to becoming a confident rider. Certain situations might make you nervous, but you do your best to work through them. You have realized that if you are not confident, the only way to gain confidence is to practice. It seems like you are doing your very best to try and improve your confidence.
Advice: Again, this is a situation where you need to communicate with your instructor. Make sure they know how you feel. What triggers your nerves? What do you feel you are really good at? The ultimate method to gain confidence is to work on overcoming your fears and building yourself up by refining the skills you are already confident in.
Congratulations! If you scored in the 20–30 point range, you are a confident rider. That is great! Make sure that you are not overly confident to the point that you don't take your lessons seriously, and don't let your ego keep you from continuing to learn. Remember, horsemanship is a journey and you should never stop learning.
Advice: Being a confident rider is a good thing, but you should always maintain a healthy level of caution when around horses and riding horses. This healthy level of caution is what will help to keep you as safe as possible. Be proud of yourself for your confidence, but never stop learning, and never look down on those who aren't as confident as you are. Encourage less confident riders, and be supportive as they learn!
Parting Words of Wisdom
We are all at our own place in our riding journey—so travel at your own speed, and know that that is okay!
© 2019 Ellison Hartley