#ForTheRider - Coping with Pressure by Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland

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Hello, Jane here from Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland.  Thanks so much to Sarah for asking me to join the #FortheRider campaign, the aim of which is to help riders to take care of themselves and to look at all aspects of wellbeing.

When I set up my business in 2004 my main aims were to help riders to help themselves and to enjoy the time that they spend with their horses both on the ground and in the saddle.  These aims still hold true today and in the high octane world of the 21st century I see more and more people who are struggling to cope with the amount of pressure they experience in all aspects of their lives.  So, when Sarah asked me to write something for the #FortheRider campaign it seemed to make sense that I write something on this subject (I believe that Horse Riding with Confidence and Apt Cavalier sponsored rider, Jodie, is going to write something about coping with the pressures of competition separately so I won’t be covering that aspect here).

 If I break this down into four sections then you can apply what I am saying to whichever area of your life that you need it most.  So let’s look at Pressure from Yourself, Pressure from Work/Life Balance, Pressure from Friends and Family and finally Pressures on the Yard.



Pressure from Yourself

This can be a big source of difficulty with riders feeling,thinking and saying that they must/should/ought to be doing X, Y or Z with their horses.  For example, ‘I don’t really enjoy jumping, but my horse can jump so I really should do it more’ or ‘I don’t like hacking out on my own but I know I ought to do it’.  When I meet clients for the first time this language is one of the things I listen out for.  Who makes these rules?  Where is it written that because you have a horse you must jump or hack out on you own?  At the end of the day the only thing which you absolutely must do is to look after your horse’s welfare, everything else is optional. 


Are you expecting and demanding perfection from yourself because if you are then it is time to question that demand.  Each rider is an individual with strengths and challenges of their own so I suggest that you look at these and be proud of your strengths and work on your challenges.  Look at just how far you have come and set some goals to help you to make progress in overcoming your difficulties.


Another area of self pressure comes from comparing ourselves unfavourably with those around us.  “I wish I was like so-and-so, she always makes it look easy.  Why can’t I be like her?’.  This is never helpful and is completely different to having a role model who you admire and aspire to be (or ride) like.  Instead of comparing yourself to a rider who is more experienced than you then look back at all of your achievements and be proud of them.


So, if you find that you are piling the pressure on yourself then take a few moments to see how you could make a few changes and find a way to ease those demands.



Pressure from Work/Life Balance

Nowadays there seems so often to be a cult of busyness with an impression that the busier we are the more important we feel.  Someone said to me just the other day that everyone is busy, even if they are busy doing nothing!  Sometimes I ask a friend how they are and get the reply ‘I’m very busy’!  Well, actually I would like to know how they are not how many appointments they have in their diary!


As horse riders and owners we invariably have pressures from having to fit in work hours, spending time with family and friends, doing household chores, socialising and, of course, don’t forget…looking after and riding our horses.


As a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist I have to have supervision to maintain my registration and I always struggle to get my non-horsey supervisor to understand that the majority of horse owners aren’t wealthy enough to not have to work!!  In fact, it is usually just the opposite and most riders I know work extremely hard to be able to fund the sport that they love.  Therefore, most of us have to fit in riding after work or at weekends and that can lead to feeling pressured.


For leisure riders who are riding for fun then it’s important to be realistic about how often you can ride and how much time you can spend with your horse.  This will be different for each individual of course.  If you are a seriously competitive rider in training then you will need to look at planning your week to take account of this.

 So, I suggest that you plan your week and mark out times for doing the things you choose to do with the aim of feeling more in control of your time and feeling less overwhelmed.  Try it and see how much difference it makes.


Pressure from Friends and Family

Gosh, we’ve probably all had it at some point ‘You love that horse more than you love me!’, ‘You’re not spending all day at the yard AGAIN are you?’. ‘We never get to see you any more since you got that horse’.


It’s not for me to tell you how you divide your time but I think the main things to remember here are communication and compromise.  Explain your plans and reasons for how much time you spend with the horse to your partner and be prepared to compromise and make allowances for your partner's interests and demands on their time.  If you expect your family and friends to show interest in what you choose to do then reciprocate and do the same for them.


If you are willing to make compromises and to communicate openly then the pressures should be minimised.


If you are lucky enough to have a partner who is interested in your horse and the horsey side of your life then treasure them and let them know how much you appreciate their support but don’t take it for granted!


As for your non-horsey friends maybe the winter is the time to give them some attention.  When it’s dark and cold and you don’t feel like riding so much make some plans with those friends, have some fun and enjoy getting your glad rags on and getting out of the jods and wellies!



Pressures on the Yard

There has been quite a lot of publicity recently about stress and pressures on livery yards and this can really spoil your enjoyment of riding and cause a lot of unhappiness.


Each of us is responsible for our own behaviour and therefore we can choose how we react and what we say whilst we are on the yard.


It is our own responsibility to be courteous and thoughtful. If others don’t behave similarly then perhaps it is time for a yard discussion or meeting.  Hopefully there will be some kind of policy drawn up for acceptable behaviour, use of the arena, individual responsibilities etc.  If there isn’t one then you could suggest it to the owner/manager or even make sure that a policy is in place before moving your horse to that yard.


if you are aware of gossip or unpleasantness then please do not join in or add fuel to the fire.  If you unfortunately find yourself the subject of gossip then do try to be adult about it and keep lines of communication open and ultimately rise above it!


At the end of the day if you are unhappy at the yard then that is likely to have an affect on your horse too so have a think about it and either see what changes you can make or start looking for another place to keep your horse.


So, in conclusion, if you are experiencing unwanted or excessive pressure then have a look at where it is coming from and then work out what you need to change to lessen the stress and allow you to enjoy the sport that you love.






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