The Importance of Being Confident

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What exactly does it mean to be confident? A simple Google search says being confident means feeling or showing confidence in oneself:



  • feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured.



  • the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
  • the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
  • a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

The success of a trainer is built upon confidence. Confidence in your ability to see where improvements need to be made, and in your ability to coach these equestrians to achieve their best, is paramount to success. And instilling confidence in your students is one of the most important tasks for the trainer, albeit sometimes the most difficult as well.

The impression we have of who we are and what we might be able to achieve is developed very early in life (many experts say by the age of six). Fortunately, the self-image can be recreated. There are steps that you can take, personally, to transform your own negative image into a positive one and improve your self-confidence; AND you can use these same techniques with your students to develop an appreciation of their ability as a rider.

Acknowledging that your self-image is negative and in need of change is the first step. A great starting place is to notice how your students react to mistakes. Recognizing that this needs to be adjusted is a great starting place, and the crucial first step in the transformation of one’s confidence. Do the following for yourself, and then see where you can help your students grow:

  1. Make a list of the things you like about yourself, your own riding, and your teaching skills. Riding can be a powerful tool for improving – or damaging – your self-worth. Reread these items, and notice how reading these positives boosts your confidence with each read. Add to this list each day, and reread the entire list each day.
  2. Make a list of things you don’t like about yourself that cannot be changed – and then stop spending any more time trying to change them!
  3. Now list the things you don’t like that CAN be changed – now this is a great place to focus some energy!
  4. The next step is to create a plan for changing the items in #3.

Before you learn the processes I use with my clients, I must issue a warning:

There is such a thing as too much confidence. As you know, under-confidence causes negative self-talk and leads to fear of failure, self-doubt, lack of concentration. Naturally, all of this negativity prevents you from enjoying yourself and performing to the best of your ability. But overconfidence is equally dangerous, as it will mislead you into thinking that you and your horse can do things that you cannot do. This can easily lead to injury, and it is irresponsible to put your horse in an impossible situation.

Creating a plan for change starts with goal setting. The idea here is to retrain your brain to become the expert at whatever you are working to achieve. We have all heard the old adage, “Failure to plan is a plan for failure.” Goal setting and achieving those goals requires dedication, perseverance, and, most important, a plan.

Look at your list from #3 and begin setting your goals. A goal is something that you intend to achieve. This sounds simple, but step back a moment to determine whether the “goals” you are setting are really “dreams”. So, what is the difference in a goal and a dream? Again, a goal is something you intend to achieve. A dream, on the other hand, is something you’d like to achieve, but for which you do not have a plan. In fact, dreams can be so vaguely worded that they are not easily planned for.

Consider what your students say. What words do they use to describe their desires? Look at the difference of these two statements:

“I want to improve my performance and achieve peak performance.”

” I will cut my time on my jumpers for my Grand Prix class by 10 percent and have consistently clean, clear rounds within three months.”

Which one do you think will achieve his or her goals? The second statement is more attainable because it is specific and allows for the creation of a mental time-line, complete with deadlines and action steps. The first is so vaguely worded, it sounds like a dream. What does it mean to improve performance?

Goals are most useful when they are worded as outcomes. An outcome is a specific, clear statement of what you want to be doing and thinking at the end of a specific time frame. In other words, “improving my performance” isn’t specific enough. What does “improve” look like? In the second example, the goal is very clear, with a 10% time improvement with consistently clean, clear rounds within three months. Outcomes must be measurable, reachable, and worded in the positive (I will…).

Words are powerful, so word your goals carefully. Remember that the brain has no idea what to do with the word “not,” and how it is impossible to not picture, for instance, a purple horse sitting across from you. Creating an outcome that says “I won’t fall off my horse” is a surefire way to fall off you horse!

State your goals as outcomes. Be as specific as possible in describing exactly what it is you will be achieving. Your outcome should be measurable, reachable, and worded in the positive. It is also vital that you put a time frame, as this is what allows you to develop a plan. Think about it – if you plan to travel across the country, and your time frame is to do it in one day, that is going to significantly affect how you plan your trip.

I use shorter time frames than traditional “goal setting” models, using one month, three months, six months, and a year as opposed to 1-year, 5-year, 10-year. This allows my clients to see results much sooner. Using your list of challenges from #3, create a worksheet for one, three, six and twelve months and list your goals for:

  1. Your Physical State
  2. Positive Self-Talk
  3. Your Focus
  4. Your Emotional State
  5. Your Mental State
  6. Your Expectations

Once your goals are clearly written and placed in a time-frame for achieving them, you will then be able to formulate your outcomes. The premise here is that of the road map – you must know where your starting point is in order to most effectively reach your destination. Your directions for travel are your plan. Make a list of three clearly stated outcomes you are going to achieve. You may revise them later as you gain clarity about the process, so avoid becoming too attached to them.

Once you have done this for yourself, begin this process with your students. Look for the next steps to ACHIEVE these outcomes in the next issue.