Have you heard of the ‘Hack 100 miles in a Month’ challenge? Now that’s a bit too much for me, but I love the sentiment that we can develop strong and lasting bonds, relax our horses and allow them to just be as we tootle down the lanes. Here we’re looking at hacking confidence and how to get a boost using phrases from hypnosis.
I often ask riders who say their horses are spooky, “What were you thinking and feeling when your horse did X?” Obviously, there are horses who very much have minds of their own and misbehave with even professional riders; there are partnerships that are far from harmonious. There are also very real and frightening situations where a horse can be forgiven for misdemenours. But given an unhelpful behaviour in our horse, we should also question what we were thinking, feeling and conveying to this prey/herd animal at the same time.
I’ve just started hacking my mare, Lottie again. To give Lottie the best possible hacking confidence, it was important for me to be the same, if not more so. I decided that as soon as we left the comfort of the driveway, I’d use hypnotic language to maintain a positive, calm and assertive state in myself and communicate this to Lottie. I probably sounded more than a little mad, clip-clopping down the lane, using slow, calming language and hypnotic phrases.
It worked until we had to pass a dead badger laying at the side of the road. Lottie has smelt it well before I could see it, but she had carried on walking, if a little more slowly and requiring me to squeeze her to keep her going forward. As we neared the dead badger, she stopped and started to walk backwards – not ideal with ditches on either side of the lane. I couldn’t afford to lose my calm, confident state: that would ruin everything we’d been working on. I allowed her to come to a halt. (Being aggressive does not work with her, she becomes more anxious and runs backwards or spins, she has no self preservation and would back into a ditch without a second thought.) I allowed her to stand still whilst I spoke to her, using hypnotic language, stroked her neck and rubbed her poll. I turned her to face the onward journey, gave her a moment, asked her walk on and she did! She wasn’t overjoyed walking past the rotting animal – neither was I! – but she did it and without any histrionics!
If you’d like to improve your hacking confidence, try a little hypnotic language calming (don’t worry, you’re not in a trance!), the types of phrases you can use are (said in a lower, slower voice than usual):
- You know you can choose to be calm right now or in a few seconds’ time, don’t you?
- That’s right (you can just repeat ‘that’s right’ if you forget the others!)
- I’m alright now and now and now and now………
- Adding to that you could try breathing deeply, breathing into your pelvis, breathing into your lower back, with each breath feeling more and more calm and confident (you can also breathe in time to the horse’s footfall, see if you can build it up to breathe in for all 4 feet to move, then out for all 4 feet)
Choose just one or two of these and repeat as you ride.
You’re giving your conscious mind (the pre-frontal cortex) something to do and reiterating to your unconscious mind that’s all’s well. You are also anchoring yourself in the moment, rather than being in the future. Anxiety is all about thinking the worst of the future, being in the moment prevents you from thinking ahead. You react as you need to do and negative anticipation is reduced.
Let me know how you get on! If you’d like to discuss use of hypnotherapy in riding let’s chat! or, if you’re within a 50 mile radius of Leek, Staffs., UK, then I’m happy to visit your yard and talk you through your mounted/unmounted mental preparation, keeping you calm and confident! You might even want to train to help equestrians with their confidence and have a whole new career as a certified coach click here