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Choosing confidence.

Has a trainer ever told you, “You need to be more confident in your choices” or “You need to trust it/yourself”? Or just “Be more confident!” And then you, as the rider, respond either outloud or in your head: “Yeah, that would be great!” or “Ugh, I know and I am trying! It just feels impossible”.

Yeah, that’s confidence.

Is confidence a choice? Technically no, but you can actively choose to develop or hinder your confidence. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between confidence and success. Extremely successful athletes are very self confident. But, not by accident.

Confidence can be practiced, improved, developed, grown, and come from a mountain of different sources.

The F-A-C-T-S about confidence:

  • When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to perform well. Especially when the pressure is on.

  • You know you have a winning formula when you feel good and proud of yourself, regardless of the outcome.

  • When confidence is based on effectiveness of performance or evaluation then it bleeds into your self-worth. Think process, not outcome.

It is not about controlling confidence, it’s building confidence.

Want to be more confident? Let’s do it!

  1. Choices: As riders, we are constantly reminded of the consequences for negative outcomes. We waste time thinking about factors outside of our control. Choose to focus on what you can control. The more time athletes spend concentrating on positive thoughts and factors that they can control, the more confident and successful they will be. What we concentrate on makes a big difference in our performance effectiveness (Woolsey, 2010).

  2. Method: Have faith in the program you are in. Trust your coaches, trainers, barn managers, grooms, farriers, vets, the whole team behind you. If you do not have faith in the method behind you, you will continue to allow external forces to take control over your confidence level.

  3. Positive self-talk: If you wouldn’t say it outloud or to a friend, then do not say it to yourself in your head. No negative self-talk! You might not be able to always control the negative thoughts that come into your head but you can control what thoughts you feed into or believe. Replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk and affirmations. Every action is preceded by a thought and we can only think about one specific thing at any given moment. So choose a positive thought, that is process focused. Instead of “I suck” or “I can’t do this” Change it to → “I believe in my abilities” or “I will relax my hand and look up, I got this”. Add a skill to your affirmation that you can do to improve your performance!

  4. Set clear goals: Take time to plan your goals, discuss them with others (i.e. a trainer, partner, therapist), and use them as a blueprint for your riding. Write down two goals before lesson or hack and then go back after your ride and answer the question: Did I accomplish this goal? Yes or no. What do I need to work on for next time? Make sure your goals are -->

  • Specific

  • Process focused (not outcome focused) - Example: Keep a consistent pace in my course vs. win champion at the next show.

  • Measurable -Example: Keep a consistent pace over all 10 jumps in my course. Did you maintain it over all 10 jumps? Or was it 7 out of 10? Keep it measurable.

  • Achievable and realistic - Not too challenging but hard enough. Ask your trainer for help setting goals!

  • Time specific - Example: By the end of the summer; within 3 months, etc.

- Jenny Swanson, LICSW

©2021 by Jenny Swanson, LICSW. All rights reserved.


Woolsey, C. (2010, January 9) - Athletes’ choices can help or hinder the development of

confidence. Podium Sports Journal. hinder-the-development-of-confidence/

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phone: 508-494-1555

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