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Rider Confidence

Read our Guest Blog on Rider Confidence by Sports Psychologist Annika McGivern.

As an Equestrian Mental Performance Coach, the question I get asked most often is: how can I be more confident? We all crave confidence; that quiet calm and ‘sureness’ that you have prepared as best you can and have a real shot at success. Most riders are aware that greater confidence would benefit themselves and their horses. They have a strong desire to show up as their best selves for their horse and recognise that a lack of confidence and self belief is getting in their way. This blog will look closely at the mental skills that create confidence and how to bring a practice of building confidence into our daily lives.

First, we have to check in with what we believe about confidence.


The belief that confidence is a trait, something that you are either born with or without, is a common misconception. This (incorrect) belief system tells us that if we have always struggled with confidence, then we will continue to struggle with confidence because low confidence is essentially part of who we are. This often leads to us trying our hardest to “appear” more confident to others as a solution. Additionally, any experience where we feel unsure or scared or anxious about our performance serves to reinforce this story in our head: “I’m not a confident rider.” Or, “I am an anxious or nervous rider.”

Confidence is not a trait. It is a skill. When we believe confidence is a skill, just like all of the technical skills we learn as a part of our sport, like sitting the trot or finding a distance to a jump, then we can intentionally work on developing our confidence in the same way we would develop other skills: focused and intentional practice. This skill-focused belief system helps us understand that even if we have historically struggled with confidence, it’s simply because we don’t have strong confidence skills yet. This perspective leads us to really working to understand and improve our confidence at every opportunity.

Confidence comes from the process of combining several mental skills. Each of these skills need to be practiced in order to develop the mental “muscles” to keep our confidence strong.

Self awareness.

Build self awareness by getting curious about your own thoughts, beliefs, emotions and reactions. The ability to observe the self is essential for confidence because often the source of low confidence is our own thinking and belief systems. To change our patterns of thought and belief to support confidence we must first be aware of them.

Self compassion

Self compassion does not come naturally to most of us, yet it is essential for practicing confidence. Self compassion helps us break old habits of self criticism and recognise that we are already good enough and capable of growing and learning through anything life throws our way.