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Take the lead - Developing Horse Riding Confidence
By Evon Montgomery

Hello Riders
Take the Horse's LeadDo you have what it takes to be a leader and a friend?
A lot of people look at my pictures on the web or social media and they see me with a lead in my hand and at the end of the rope is a person on a horse.  They then ask me why I put a halter and a lead on the horse while someone is riding it. 
Let’s investigate my thinking, see if you agree or disagree.  Either is fine with me!

Strategic planning
One of the strategies I use for a Rider to gain confidence is to have the person saddle up, get on their horse and have a friend lead them around the riding area.

It is the same process as having a mentor; having someone to hold your hand and to guide you through a difficult path.  This in some way, lends comfort by human support.  Picture a child learning to walk, step up on a curb or ride a bicycle.  The comfort and security of the helping hand stabilizes them until they gain the strength and confidence to “go it” alone.  
The human mind is a HUGE part of riding a horse.  If your mind is unsettled and unconfident your body will NEVER come in line and behave like a rider. 

The “leader” strategy is used in several instances.  Situations arise; such as a newly purchased horse or a beginner rider.  Maybe you have physical and emotional scars after a bad fall from your horse.  Perhaps you have decided to ride again after a long absence to raise a family.  No matter, it’s confidence that’s lacking.

The majority of people I am speaking to are: 40 to 60-something men and women who WANT TO RIDE and have FUN before it is too late.
If this describes you: continue reading. 
If this does not describe you: have a good laugh.
Continue reading anyhow and keep it in mind for the future. 
Try this technique before you shrug it off.  I am positive you know someone who needs confidence.   In fact, you are most likely thinking of them RIGHT now! What will it hurt to give it a go.

I know people and I know horses
Developing Confidence for Riding HorsesSometimes people call me a horse whisperer, or a psychic, a horse communicator or a psychologist but I love it most when people call me the “real deal”. 
I listen.  I listen to horses; I listen to people.  I watch their body language; I watch their faces and their expressions.  I see lots of people observing, coming to conclusions, but not really listening.  Still others can train a horse or instruct people; few do both. 
After years of observation, I have learned to read through the static and get to the heart of the matter.  There are lots of stressful things in this world for horses and humans.  I want to keep it simple, let people enjoy the small things in life and keep their horse’s life stress-free as well.  Peace and harmony- that is what I strive to teach. 
Now is time for a smile, maybe even a laugh.  I am laughing with you, you see.  You are getting to know me and I love to smile and have fun.  Even if you are being a bit sarcastic and rolling your eyes, you are smiling! 

Do you wake up in cold sweat thinking of your horse or of going to the barn?
Are you one of the people who lie awake at night in a sweat thinking of what you should do with your horse? Should you sell it?  Give it away?  Is it worth trying to work through this newest situation with your horse using the new device you just purchased? 

You most likely loved the horse when you bought it.   Who would take it?  Where would it end up?  What would happen if it acted badly with the new person?  Is it me?  Is it the horse?  The trainer does fine with it.  Maybe I should get tougher, louder, faster, more coordinated.  Would my horse end up in an auction, something horrible for sure?  But what should I do; I am going to get hurt.

Do any or several of these scenarios sound or feel familiar to you?  You are NOT alone. I meet many people in this situation.  Believe me, there are plenty of others like you out there.  You know what I am saying is true. 

Is confusion and frustration part of your horse equation?
I see confusion, frustration, exasperation everywhere I go in the horse world.  Both horses and people have become anxious about life .  Horses pace their stalls, paw, have ulcers.  Who ever heard of so many horses with ulcers; it used to be just show or race horses had ulcers.  Although, I am sure the equine drug companies love this fact that sales are up.  But, this should NOT be happening, people.

That is why I am starting a “new” movement called calm, confident, collected.  New that is actually old, NON-Original, boring, dull and safe.  Hey, are you smiling again?
So, grab a reliable friend, a person who will support you and not go behind your back and make fun of you.   Head to the barn! Plan on having FUN, yes, I said fun at the barn.  That was the original plan when you purchased the steed wasn’t it?  We can do “spa” day occasionally, but not forever. Don’t you plan on riding?!  Let’s get to it!

Find somebody that is compassionate and understanding.  With a bit of luck you have at least one comrade who fits that category.  Someone who is fit enough, or who wants to get fit-a-bit and can stride about safely with you.  Hopefully Tonto is a fairly good horse and it is only you that needs confidence.  That way your helper just needs horse basics and not a trainer or instructor degree.  Promise them that they will not have to “hold your hand” forever, just until you get your brass up a bit. 

Step one – get ON the horse
Getting on the horse is step oneLet’s get back to the strategy.
Ride’m cowboy- the first step is to actually put your foot in the stirrup and get on!  Use a mounting block to get on as there are many good reasons for using one.  Just be sure that in the future, you can indeed mount and dismount from the ground for safety’s sake.  Know that you can, and how to do it should an emergency arise.  Have your halter on your horse UNDER the bridle so it does not interfere with the reins at any time.  I prefer the web halters, as the rope halters can give the horse mixed signals when the bridle is on top.  Be sure that any halter is properly placed and adjusted.  The rope knots work on the pretense that they hit exactly at sensitive nerve endings in the face, so it is not kind to put a bridle on top of rope or ill-fitting web halter.

Step two- rider is in CONTROL
The RIDER is the one who is in “control” of the horse.  The leader or the “ground pony person” is the security.  The rider needs to say out loud where they are steering or stopping, so the ground person can just walk along playing security.  TheyRider in Control of the horse are NOT pulling on the reins, or interfering with the direction of the horse or speed unless the rider says HELP!  This gives the jockey practice steering and stopping.  Do you know how many people hold the horn and cannot turn or stop!!  Good grief! Let go of the saddle and give some direction- please.

Go around the pen to the left then to the right.  Go up the middle and across the center.  Stop at the barrel; stop at the cone; and rest far, far away from the gate.  Walk over rails, down safe trails, and anywhere you can to prepare for the moment the rider can say without hesitation.  “Take off that rope, this is silly”!   The pony ride is OVER. 

It will take minutes for some, hours for others and still weeks for a few.  The point is, it DOESN’T MATTER how long it takes.  Who cares!  Don’t let peer pressure ruin your day or your life. 
Get a grip, it is YOUR life!  Have FUN.   Today we ride!

Step three- take off the Lead
Next step is taking off the lead.  Unsnap the rope, but have the “life guard” just walk about 5 feet away.  The rider is still in control of the reins and the speed.  The Rider is still speaking where they are going.

Speaking is important because it helps the rider be committed to a DIRECTION.  You see, if the rider has no direction does Trigger know where to go?  Hmm, have you ever thought of it that way?  I often see people without a sense of Confident Rider and Horsedirection or purpose.  This usually relates to their life on and off a horse.  Think about where you are going, even if the goal is 10 feet away, say it out loud, go for it.  Do not look to the left or to the right.  Just go as straight as you can, get there and rest.  Do again, and again; it will get easier as you build your muscle memory.  Voila! You are riding!
Gradually have your security person get farther and farther away. 
Be sure you take as long as you like and need.  This will get easier.  Soon, you will be looking forward to coming back to the barn to see how much more you can do!
Your outlook will have changed from fearing to yearning and you are on your way with a positive view.

Face the facts- facts is facts
News Flash:  If you have a gut feeling that your horse is not progressing or you are not progressing, be sure to have a professional evaluation of you and your horse.  This person should not have an interest in the boarding, leasing or ownership of the said horse.  Facts is facts; some people and horses DO have PERSONALITY CONFLICTS.   If you and your horse have one of those, it is a hard decision, but you and your horse will be much happier in the end if you part ways.

I help lots of people with horses.  Some do not worry about a time frame; nor do they care if they ever ride their horse.  If this is your scenario; no worries, it is YOUR personal GOAL.   Most issues that you and your horse have can be worked through with time.   

Look at your GOAL.  Consider your pride, your goal, your money, your life expectancy AND the facts.  If they are all in line, go for it !  I and many others like myself will support you no matter what choice you make. 

If you want to ride- have a horse that is YOUR speed
Find a steed for -Your speed.  As you learn to ride, your speed will get better and so will your steed.  The horse seeks the level of the rider.  Step back and take an honest look at your ability, then continue.
I encourage you if you need confidence - find a 20-something year old HORSE you can borrow or lease or take lessons on.  Learn to ride!  Have fun! SMILE!  Only then buy the horse of your dreams- because you will know what horse YOUR dreams are made of.
Time is short friend.  If you have the horse bug-  fly with it.

Evon Montgomery Horse Training Clinician

Life is an Adventure, Saddle up and Ride!

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