Building on yesterday's message, the other side of the equation is having a horse the actually builds your confidence up and doesn't destroy it. In other words, you want a horse that's a Confidence Builder versus one that's a Confidence Destroyer. When you're afraid, having a horse that scares you will never help you. So the first step is to find a suitable horse. Wait, let's back up: Get yourself into a lesson program with good school horses and an instructor who helps you instead of hurting you. That's not to say a harsher riding instructor is bad, but timid riders need to be praised, not yelled at.
Everyone who wishes to explore the wonderful world of riding horses needs to first understand, they are animals with a mind of their own. No horse can ever be guaranteed completely 100% safe. They all have the potential of being spooked, being naughty, or misbehaving in some way. That said, good lesson programs will have the safest horses possible, in a controlled environment (i.e., riding lessons), riders can concentrate on their own skills. I start all my students in a round pen where they are able to focus on their confidence, abilities and correct posture. Once they have the basics down and we reinforce those basics, I'll have them advance to riding without reins (on a longe line), then riding without stirrups. As an instructor, I find these exercises help with dramatic improvement in a relatively short time.
Most of my riders begin to feel safe enough to move into a smaller arena, then a large arena, within weeks of starting their horseback journey. Not all of them, mind you, but most. Being a conscientious teacher who understands their fears and worries is paramount. Once a rider has a frightening or otherwise bad experience, that can become baggage which will never allow them to completely relax and enjoy riding. Minimizing the possibility that such an experience will occur in the first place is one of the responsibilities and signs of being a good instructor.
Let's move on to that moment they're ready to go horse shopping. For timid or frightened riders, this can be a daunting experience and it's a colossal step. Making a list and checking it twice, I'll rule out an awful lot of prospects before actually taking the student turned client out for test rides. Part of my job is to match my riders to horses ideally suited for them. Once we've got a match, I'll strongly suggest the client put the horse in training for at least a couple of months while continuing to take lessons on my well schooled lesson horses. Let me take a minute to explain my reasoning -- In order to do my job to the best of my ability and offer the best services possible to my clients, ensuring their new horse is everything we hope for, and bringing horse and rider together as a team, is my main concern. Everything else is circumstantial. To be sure, there is a cost. But it's well worth it for the rider's safety and enjoyment.
At another time, I'll delve more in depth to this topic because I believe it's an important one. For now, I'm signing off. Happy trails!