Confidence is a key part of equestrian sport, both on and off the horse. On the ground, having a self-assured demeanor can set boundaries (which are very important when working with such large animals.) The same is true while riding. A confident rider will keep a nervous horse calm, make an ornery horse respectful, and keep a jumpy horse relaxed.
Take a Step Back
In many cases, if a rider isn’t confidence (or has lost confidence), it helps to take a step back and work on a skill that they already are very adept at. For example, if you have been trotting for several months and feel confident doing so, but have recently begun to canter and are getting nervous, go back to working on the trot. Going back to basis in riding is never a bad idea, and often will even help you progress faster in the long run.
Get Comfortable with Ground Work
A lot of what you see riders accomplish in the saddle starts from the ground up. (Literally.) If you’re struggling with nerves or anxiety while riding, work with your horse on the ground. Set up a small obstacle course and lead your horse through. Work on maneuvers such as backing up and turning, focusing on getting your horse to respect your space. Self-assurance in working with a horse on the ground will transfer to the saddle.
Push Yourself to the Limit, But Not Beyond
There can be a fine line between building confidence and shattering it. Typically, riders get into trouble when they try to bite off more than they can chew. Know what you’re comfortable with, and what is beyond you. Working with a riding instructor is immensely helpful for this situation. A skilled trainer can help you achieve your potential in a way that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but only as far as you are ready to go.