Young riders (18-21 years old) have dreams....
Whatever the dream, young riders can still feel pressure sometimes from parents, riding clubs, team leaders, friends, other riders and themselves; at higher levels, the pressure to perform and succeed can sometimes become too much.
Young riders have grown up with social media, not knowing what life was like without it!
Social media’s fun and exciting; seeing how and what others are doing, sharing what they’ve been doing, following their idols, keeping up to date and in touch.
It has another side too as people can also be mean, nasty and unkind. For example, calling others and their horses/ponies names, generally poking fun, criticising, or more serious nastiness.
Comments on-line often seem nastier than those made face to face too, but any can be very hurtful, upsetting and harmful.
Comparing ourselves to others, whether in real life or on social media, can help us improve and achieve.
However, comparing can easily slip into unhealthy thoughts and feelings around, say, they’re better than me, I’m not good enough.
For instance, seeing others’ great results, seeing them getting the best rides at the riding school, or picked for the team over them.
Or losing confidence after a nasty fall, or struggling going from ponies to horses as it’s more difficult than first thought, while others seem to find everything easy.
Plus ponies and horses can be a challenge too sometimes! Their behaviour not always as we’d like it to be! Many of us have seen riders getting another pony/horse only to get stressed when things don’t work out as planned or anticipated.
Some young riders may have difficult home lives, or struggle at school or work in some way. They might be a family carer or in care or foster homes, feel lonely, alone or isolated for many reasons.
So four-legged friends and all the positives of horse riding, at whatever level - meeting others, making friends, having fun, companionship, opportunities – is often an important escape.
Whatever age we are, we all like having someone to talk to now and then. For many, ponies and horses are the only ones they think they can talk to; the only ones they think will listen.
Sadly though, whilst they are always there for us, they cannot guide or talk to us.
Things like worrying what others will think, say or do, or will I be heard, will others listen, understand, and believe me, or what will happen next, often stop us talking.
However upsetting, or however silly you think it is, suffering in silence isn’t the best thing to do.
So, if you think or feel you’re struggling or need help, or think someone else might be, or someone’s being mean, nasty, or bullying you, speak to someone.
If you struggle talking with someone in your family, you may have someone else you can trust eg a friend, someone at school, a teacher, teacher’s assistant, at or the stables, or at your pony/riding club, or the coach/trainer in the Young Rider programme.
Or, if someone asks you how you are, be honest and say what you feel rather than pretend all is OK.
Maddy is always selected for her Pony Club winning show jumping team.
She’s lost her confidence and is now nervous after a nasty fall. Some teammates are being very mean and unkind. She’s getting very upset and worries she can’t jump anymore. What Maddy did was:
Nothing at first. She thought everyone would laugh at her if she spoke up.
Opened up when her mum, then the team trainer, gently spoke with her. Her friend Sarah had told them as she’d seen Maddy crying in the stable while untacking Freddie and didn’t know what to do. Between them they made a plan.
Small steps. Maddy knew Freddie could jump. It wasn’t about the height. But they went back to basics - ground poles, then small cross poles, small uprights - gradually upping height. Sarah joining in also made it fun.
Breathe - Every time she felt nervous, anxious or scared, Maddy brought Freddie to a walk. She’d relax her reins slightly, relax her shoulders down. She’d take three, long slow deep breaths in and out, more if necessary. She’d also focus on stroking Freddie’s neck in time with her breathing. When she felt ready, she’d continue. This action also signalled to her trainer that Maddy was ‘having a moment’ and was not to be rushed.
Focused on what she was doing, rather than the others. Maddy felt she’d gone backwards at first, but with help, support and time, her confidence gradually returned!