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Rider Confidence – Can I really do this?

May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.  – Nelson Mandela

Horse goals for each of us can vary greatly.  For some it may be to just get on and feel safe, to trail ride around the block, to rope a calf, to correctly complete a barrel pattern, to remember the drill team routine, to make it to one show to just be in the warm up arena, to qualify for a national competition, or even the Olympics.  Break the big goal down into smaller steps and goals and then get started.  No matter the goal, the first step is courage.

Being courageous is not the absence of fear, but in the face of fear, choosing to act with courage anyway.  Throughout history, monumental moments happened because a person, a group or a country chose to ignore the odds, push past their doubts and fears and charge ahead anyway – think the movie Bravehart!

Maybe we are not defending our country and our freedoms, but sometimes our fears can seem that big.  With horses, our fears are not just about being judged or making a fool of ourselves, but they also apply to our health and safety.  Here is the disclaimer; we need the equine partner who is the right fit for us.  There are always stories that make exceptions to the rule, but have a professional horse person help you evaluate that you have the right horse to be safe and accomplish your goal, no matter what it is.  If not, there is a better partner out there for both of you.

With fears, we can stall and overthink.  But we have to have the courage to act.  The longer we wait, the more power fear has.  What you resist, persists, but what you step into dissipates.  The only way to conquer your fears is to step into them.  Avoiding them just makes them stronger and scarier.

As Les Brown said, what you think about is what you are.  Be intentional about what you put in your brain.

I recently was at the threshold of a big goal this year.  Rain delayed part of the goal by a day and my brain was racing with “what ifs”.   I needed to recall quotes and encouragements in my brain, I needed my husband, sons and friends to encourage me, I listened to music that gave me warrior-like confidence, I took lots of deep breaths and when the moment arrived I said, “I am going to be the best I can be for my horse and make it fun for her”.

I believe all riders struggle with confidence (as you can see, I certainly do), all people do for that matter, but here we are talking about riders.  The first step to confidence is commitment.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

We have to be committed to the goal we want to achieve.  We have to have the motive to stick with the goal.  Darren Hardy defined commitment as, doing the thing you said you were going to do long after to mood you were in when you originally said it has left you.  Lack of consistency is the subtle killer of dreams and goals.  Have the grit to show up even when it is hard.

Once you are committed to the goal, next is courage.  Courage is doing what is uncomfortable, stretching yourself and stepping into the unknown.   To build courage, we need to be foolish.  Steve Jobs said, “don’t fear failure.”  True courage is risky and our egos are fragile, but true personal growth only happens when we stretch our current limits and comfort zone.  The size of the problem you take on determines the size for the results.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do it has increased. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once we have stepped into the unknown with courage and continue to persist and strive toward our goal, our capabilities improve.  As Emerson stated, our task becomes easier and our ability to do it increases.  The repetition and time spent moves us past our fears and we develop new capabilities and skills we did not have before.

Don’t keep re-reading the last chapter – believe in yourself & the ability to write your own story. 

Down the line of your commitment, courage and new capabilities you will find yourself at confidence!  You didn’t start with confidence, it was a process to get there.  We do what we want to do, admit it.  You have to want it.  Commit to a goal and the steps to accomplish that goal.  Maybe your goal is big.  Maybe you want to go to the Olympics, the Nationals or the Futurity and not just go, but win.  The bigger the dream, the more important the team – find help through friends and family to encourage and support you and professionals to help you keep learning to be a better partner for your horse.

What will your goals be for 2019?  Dream big!  Heather McWilliams © 2018

Winter riding in the Foothills – What do your horse neighbors do?

Being a horse owner in the Colorado Foothills offers different dynamics to riding in the different seasons.  We have a plethora of amazing trails within an hour of our door.  Our spring, summer and fall weather offers many days of beautiful outdoor riding weather, with few days lost to precipitation.  But living in an arid climate, we take what moisture we can get!

The Rocky Mountains are just that, rocky – the ground is hard and abrasive on horse hooves.  There are very few horses that can take all of our trails barefoot.  The majority of riders have their horses shod for the main riding months, at least in front or use some kind of trail boots when riding in hard or rocky terrain.

This year, fall and early winter have allowed for some beautiful cool weather riding, but we all know the snow will soon fall and the mountains and valleys will fill their stores of moisture for the coming year.

Indoor arenas are more the exception in our community, but are a great way to carry on with riding and training no matter the weather.  Some people choose to board their horses at a nearby indoor facility during the winter or even head south for a month or so to facilities such as in Arizona that offer Roping, Team Penning and Ranch Sorting during the winter months.  Some head to California or Florida in the early spring to start getting geared up for the summer show season.  No matter the discipline, the local events slow down significantly or come to a winter hiatus.  What do we do to keep our horses active and fit?

Here are some winter activity ideas from your local horse neighbors on what they do in the winter months when the trails get icy and the outdoor arenas are hard and crusty.

  1. Barb G. in Evergreen

Activities – Trail riding in neighborhood, local fields and fox hunting, but only when the footing is good. I am a safety freak!  I have had my horse and I slip and fall and I want to avoid this again!

Arena – Outdoor freezes, sometimes trailer to Jeffco Fairgrounds Indoor Arena.  I have heard there is a brand of magnesium chloride that is environmentally safe you can mix with outdoor arena sand to keep it thawed out.

Turnout – Always, no matter the weather.

Time off – Not by choice, but just inevitable sometimes.

Winter boarding – Thought about it, but turnout is limited and I won’t give up giving them my special attention and care.

Feet – Borium and snow pads – tried pulling shoes in the winter, but mine come up lame.  Tried Easy boots – but just simpler to shoe.

Clipping – Partial clip.

  1. Nicole K. at Mount Falcon Equestrian Center in Indian Hills

Activities – We ride around our property all the time unless it’s terribly icy and love riding in the snow. When our outdoor arena becomes snowy – I pull a sled behind my horse!  This winter I am planning on pulling skiers behind me for some skijoring. Otherwise I haul down to Chatfield Park and other parks as long as it’s not icy.

Arena – We have an indoor arena and a heated barn so that makes the coldest of months bearable. Still many of my clients don’t ride much during the holiday season in December if it’s too cold. I encourage everyone to at least lunge their horses and give them a mash after workout to keep them hydrated and help prevent impaction colic. If we don’t get too much snow our outdoor arena stays alright.

Feet – Barefoot horses stay barefoot in winter. For horses that I shoe, I add snow pads. I truly believe horses here in Colorado need some sort of hoof protection while being ridden – hoof boots or shoes. The ground is just not forgiving and very abrasive – even in winter – riding that much more on the sandy surface of the indoor, still files their toes plus they don’t grow much horn in winter.

  1. Amy H. in South Evergreen

Activities – Love loping in deep fresh snow in the pasture, or for slick days, ground and liberty work!

  1. Chris S. in Evergreen

Activities – I seem to do more training in the winter because the icy trails (especially in the shade) aren’t safe.

Favorite Activity – One year a friend and I trailered down to Chatfield Park.  We bundled up as it was about 20 degrees F.  There was snow on the ground, but we just walked and stayed on the dirt service roads.  It was sunny and beautiful and one of my favorite rides ever.  The horses really seemed to enjoy it too.

Arena – My outdoor arena stays pretty good until January, but then gets too frozen and hard. Then I go down to Jeffco indoor arena 1-3 times a week.  It costs $5 and is usually open Monday thru Thursday, but you do need to call to make sure it hasn’t been rented.

Feet – My horses wear rubber boots when I trail ride so I feel a little better about riding the hard roads, but do tend to spend more time in arenas.

Clip – No

  1. Mary T. in Conifer

Activities – I still try to ride at least 5 times a week—and continue with lessons– regardless of the wind or the cold.   Only if it is below 25 degrees do I not ride or ride a much more easy routine for the sake of our horses.

Arena – I board at Red Hawk Ranch in Conifer which has both an outdoor and a lighted indoor arena (although unheated) my riding changes very little with the seasons.    Our outdoor gets good sun and is generally clear but when not, we use the indoor.

Feet – We pull shoes in the winter since we are generally only riding in the arena so generally do not trail ride.  We typically do not do shows in the winter.

Clip – No

  1. Heather B. in Conifer

Activities – I love riding in the snow, and my horses love it as well.  Of course I work on big turns, or collection (I used to get wonderful passage on my dressage horse in the deep snow!) and transitions, we go on trail rides, either up here or down the hill, depending on the footing.

Arena – I try and get in some work in an indoor just to keep the training from falling too far backwards!

Feet – Shoes with snow pads

  1. Dan L. in Evergreen

Activities – Fox hunting and trail riding.  Fox hunting is a winter sport because originally hunts ran over farmer’s fields, which are fallow only in the late fall and winter. If I have two operational horses, I will hunt twice a week during the October through April season. Although the Arapahoe Hunt is very fast, it is also quite relaxed about riders who want to go at a more sedate pace on any kind of sensible horse. If you want to ride right up with the hounds, you need a fast, well conditioned horse, normally a calm thoroughbred or cross (yes, hard to find).  I do ride in the “first flight”, so I have to start conditioning on the local trails in August, and then exercise once or twice a week during the season. Fortunately, there are some good people who enjoy helping me out with the exercise program. Hunt season also means lots of grooming, tack cleaning, trailering and all the special care that goes into keeping a horse in top condition for seven months. Fox hunting is the only horse sport that is non-competitive where you get the thrill of a five mile gallop across the Colorado high plains.  Check out the Arapahoe Hunt website at http://arapahoehunt.com/ or call Dan at 303-674-3834 for more information.

Feet – Shoes with borium.

  1. Heather M. in Evergreen

Activities – Riding in fields, fox hunting, riding in outdoor as weather allows, trailering to Jeffco Fairgrounds when the other activities are not possible.  Spring Gulch Equestrian Area in Highlands Ranch can be a great place to trailer to in the winter.

Turnout – always with shelter options.

Time off – I like my horses to get breaks and that happens naturally in the winter months when I cannot ride as often.

Winter boarding – Have tried and may again depending on goals, but I miss my horses and caring for them!

Arena – If ground is good and it is above ~25 degrees F, yes!  If too cold, don’t want my horse to get too wet and chilled.  I only have run in barns.

Feet – Depending on job, two are barefoot for winter and have trail boots if needed, one has shoes with snow pads and holes for studs.

Clip – The fit horse that gets ridden the most is partially clipped and blanketed as appropriate.  Others in light work, au natural.

What are your plans this winter?  Email me with more ideas to share – [email protected]

Indoor or outdoor arenas:

Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden, 303-271-6600

Indiana Indoor Equestrian Center in Arvada, 720-394-0191

Parks close down the hill with good sun and trails for winter:

Spring Gulch Equestrian Area, Chatfield State Park, Bear Creek Lake Park.