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  • Writer's pictureAnna Beattie

Confidence for Equestrians - Pegasus explores the options that can help maximise your success.

Ask any horse rider and they will tell you that confidence is an essential ingredient in a successful partnership with their horse. When we have it, we are barely aware that it is there: motivating us, enhancing our performance and encouraging us to raise our game. But what happens when an accident or some other trauma in our lives knocks our self-belief for six? A loss of confidence can become paralysing, undermining efforts to achieve our goals and robbing us of the enjoyment we usually experience with our horse. It happens to the best of us, from the professionals gripped with tension at the prospect of X-Country after a bad fall, to the pleasure rider making excuses not to hack out for fear of the potential hazards lying outside the yard gate.

However, many of us, rather than sitting back and waiting for that illusive confidence to return, are now taking proactive steps to regain control. Increasing numbers of us are turning to alternative coaching methods for answers, drawing on strategies from Hypnotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) to restore us on the path to confidence.

Sports psychologists have been using the link between the brain and body to improve top athletes’ performances for many years. For example, Andy Murray and Jessica Ennis-Hill regularly use visualisation (a common factor in NLP, TFT and Hypnotherapy) to not only act as a mental rehearsal for a successful performance and but also to condition their reactions to cope with pressure or problems. The Tokyo Olympic equestrian teams benefit from a sports psychologist, delivering relaxation, goal setting and visualisation strategies for optimum performance under pressure.

So what do these coaching methods involve?

Thought Field Therapy (TFT)

Thought Field Therapy (TFT) involves visualising a specific problem (such as anxiety caused by competing) whilst being guided through a sequence of ‘tapping’ on specific points of the face and body. These points are known as ‘Energy Meridian Points’ and are the same as those used in the practice of acupuncture, with roots in Chinese medicine. According to practitioners, these patterns of tapping, or ‘algorithms’, diffuse the trigger which is the root cause of your stress: you remember the problem perfectly but remove the emotional upset which usually accompanies it.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) uses language to change patterns of behaviour. Practitioners hope to recreate the ‘ingredients’ of a successful performance through visualisation and then use these ‘ingredients’ to improve or replace existing, negative patterns of behaviour. Visualisation uses multiple senses, such as sight, sound and smell, to build a vivid mental image of a positive scenario. This helps prepare the brain and body to react in the same way in a real situation.


Hypnotherapy involves creating a relaxed or hypnotic state in which our unconscious minds are more open to positive changes in our patterns of behaviour or feelings. Practitioners use a variety of methods to induce a hypnotic state, including the use of language patterns and repeated phrases, breathing exercises and visualisation.

For the next blog post, we examine real life case studies to find out what is involved with the three coaching methods and ask how they might help us become the riders we wish to be. Tune in for our next installment.

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