Psychology plays a major role in all sports but I think it is very important in horse riding. Not only do you need to have the confidence to do it but this is transferred into your horse and they will be more likely to try a jump if they can sense the rider is confident. Psychology is full of different theories that can be applied to people in different situations.
Self-efficacy is the perception of a persons’
ability to perform a task successfully it is a situation specific form of
self-confidence. A psychologist called Albert Bandura brought together the
concepts of confidence and expectations to give a clear idea of
self-efficacy. It focuses on the ability to overcome obstacles to give a successful performance. It is the theoretical
basis for most performance based research in self-confidence in sports. Self-efficacy
alone cannot make a person a successful athlete. They must also want to succeed
and have the ability to succeed. Athletes
who believe in themselves tend to persevere especially under hard conditions. Self-efficacy
can be related to goal setting, therefore the athlete is more likely to set more
challenging goals if he has a higher self-efficacy. It has also been found that in athletes, if they have a higher level of self-confidence they are more likely to succeed.
Therefore when looking at a nervous rider they may not perform as well under pressure such as at a competition. They may be able to ride to a good standard when at home in their normal surroundings but find it harder when they get to a competition. It may affect their willingness to practise as they may be worried they will ride badly. It can cause a loss of motivation and the development of a negative attitude.
Improving low confidence
Problems such as this may be improved by goal setting. Psychologists may set a personalised plan for the rider with various goals and strategies. There may also be an evaluation procedure to assess progress towards goals. This can help to enhance confidence and performance.
Imagery is another technique used to build self confidence. This is where people imaging themselves accomplishing tasks they have not been able to accomplish or have had difficulty doing. A rider may visualise themselves successfully jumping a 3 ft course or successfully performing accurate movements in the dressage arena.
Acting confidently is another technique used as well as thinking confidently. This involves thinking that we will achieve the goals. Our thoughts should be motivational rather than judgemental. By thinking confidently it should also make event more enjoyable.
Physical conditioning and training is also important. If you and your horse are in good shape and have carried out lots of training then it will also lead to feeling more confident. It is said that no mental training can overcome the physical skill needed. This is particularly important in athletic sports but can also be applied to horse riding as you and your horse need to be trained to take part in an event.
Preparation is important, it will give more of an idea of what is expected of the rider. A pre-competition plan may be established to take some of the strain out of the situation.
Vicarious exercises are when the person lacking confidence watches others carry out the task they are struggling with. This may allow them to gain a greater understanding of what to do and new techniques.
Verbal persuasion is when a coach or other members of a team encourage the athlete who lacks confidence. This may come from friends and family.
There are many different techniques used by a wide range of athletes in order to improve their confidence during sport. These can be adapted to be used by horse riders to improve their competition.