What creates a confident horse?
We’ve all seen confident horses—nothing seems to phase them, they can remain focused and calm in many situations. That ideal is a holy grail for many riders who often wish they had a more confident horse.
So why are some horses confident and others not? How do you increase a horse’s confidence?
Well, confidence comes from a Latin word which means ‘to trust’. So having self-confidence is having trust in yourself.
Some horses are more confident in themselves than others and that often relates to the trust they have in their physical abilities. Horses that are naturally well-balanced, healthy and athletic are often more confident because they can rely on their bodies when they need them. On the other hand, a horse that has physical issues, doesn’t have good natural balance or moves with unhealthy biomechanics can be less trusting of it’s own body. So developing horses to be biomechanically sound is one way that you can help increase a horse’s self-confidence.
But building confidence isn’t just about adding exercises to your workouts. Your horse’s confidence may also be affected by how it grew up and the environment where it lives, today. A horse that had freedom to move, learned social and physical skills as a youngster, then had a good start in their life with humans where relaxation, partnership, and communication were prioritized, is more likely to be confident. On the flip side, if your horse didn’t have a nice start in life or they haven’t had the opportunity to develop horsey skills, then they might not be as confident in themselves.
Although you can’t change what has already happened, you are able to prioritize partnership based training that puts the horse’s mental, emotional and physical well being first. And you can make choices to help create a healthy lifestyle for your horse, today. Keeping horses as naturally as possible—with friends, freedom and free-choice forage—can significantly increase their well-being.
Confidence and trust are interconnected.
Trust is having a strong belief in the goodness or ability of someone or something. So what about the horse’s trust in us? How does their trust in us influence their confidence?
Well, if horses need to believe in the goodness or ability of their riders and what we do with them, to feel trusting and confident—then things need to go well for their confidence to build. In other words, the horse needs to trust that there’ll be a good outcome to every event. A good outcome from the things we ask of them and the time they spend with us.
Consistency is key, so that our horses know what to expect and can rely on us for a ‘good’ outcome. When our timing, emotions and boundaries are consistent, our horses can depend on—and feel confident in—us.
Negative experiences, being afraid, and being pushed past mental, emotional or physical boundaries doesn’t build confidence, for horses or riders. Instead, we can build our horse’s confidence by offering trustworthy, consistent communication, recognizing how they’re feeling, providing experiences at a speed they’re comfortable with, and by taking their mental, emotional and physical needs into account at all times.