If you’re like the majority of the equestrian population, you’ve struggled with confidence at one point in your riding career. We asked international event rider Clark Montgomery for his advice on rebuilding rider confidence.:

Photo courtesy of JJ Sillman.  

“If a rider is losing confidence with jumping, it’s important to teach them how to effectively balance and get their horse uphill. When you come a fence and you’re off balance – even if you’re on a perfect stride – the horse is A) not going to feel confident and/or B) has more of an opportunity for a disobedience. The main idea is to teach the rider how to correctly get their horse uphill.”

“So many people don’t realize when their horse has gone out of balance. You can’t do anything out of balance. Sometimes if a rider is having problems, it’s best to drop them down to a fence they aren’t nervous about so they can really focus on their position and effectiveness.”

“The main thing with teaching balance and riding uphill is that some people are afraid to put leg on. Some will simply pull to get the horse’s head up, creating a false illusion of being uphill. The rider has got to put leg on to engage the hind end and therefore bring the front end and head up.”

“Think of it like a speedboat. The motor, at the back of the boat, is what generates the power and causes the back of the boat to dip down while the front rises. This is the same concept of applying leg and hand to achieve an uphill ride. The rider also has to learn when to release and reward, or they get sucked into just pulling and getting run away with because the horse isn’t learning. If you momentarily pull the horse’s head up and don’t use leg, you can’t sustain that, and you lose balance.”

“I am a big fan of Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, and I’ve watched a lot of Carl’s masterclasses. One thing they really drive home is that the horse absolutely has to be tuned to the leg. The horse has to learn to accept and respect the leg, even the nervous horses who have a tendency to scoot away. That’s where an effective half-halt comes into play, but there has to be a release and reward element to work.”

“I spend a lot of time working with riders to engage their upper body and use their position to achieve what they want. It requires strength to be able to sit up and ride that uphill balance correctly, so that is also an important thing to practice for the rider.”